The Trump administration has launched the latest GOP barrage of complaints against judges sitting on the federal Ninth Circuit, who have now tripped up two of the new president’s big executive orders on immigration.
Foes of denying federal funds to cities and counties that decline to cooperate with new deportation policies won a ruling Tuesday in the same western U.S. subdivision of federal courts, where a travel ban targeting seven nations also bogged down.
The circuit includes 15 judicial districts in all or part of nine states and two Pacific territories. For many years, Republicans have complained about its “left coast” decisions. The circuit is known to have a relatively high proportion of Democratic presidential appointees. Newt Gingrich once called it un-American and called for its breakup.
In that context, President Donald Trump on Wednesday assailed the “ridiculous rulings” on his orders. White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus said, “It’s the Ninth Circuit going bananas” — with foes of the sanctuary measure carrying out “forum shopping” to land sympathetic judges.
William Orrick, one of the district court judges (not the region’s appellate panel), ruled against the sanctuary order.
There are 86 judges currently serving lifetime appointments in the whole circuit. Eighteen appear to have senior, or semiretired, status. Of those now active, 18 are Democratic picks, seven Republican.
Trump has a chance to change the balance a little, with four judicial seats now vacant within the circuit.
An early-morning tweet from Trump distorts the circuit’s record, but just slightly. He said it has a “terrible record of being overturned (close to 80%).”
For perspective: Nationwide, the Supreme Court reversed about 70 percent of cases it decided to take up between 2010 and 2015, according to PolitiFact.
Among cases reviewed from the Ninth Circuit, it reversed about 79 percent — third highest of 13 circuits nationwide. Again, those are the cases it chooses to review, not all of them.
When conservatives accused President Barack Obama of exceeding his authority through executive orders, they often chose more GOP-friendly forums, such as Texas.
Clearly stung by the latest court ruling, Trump suggested Wednesday he was confident the U.S. Supreme Court — now restored to a conservative majority with his appointment of Neil Gorsuch — will vindicate his sanctuary city policy.
He also made some noise about breaking up the Ninth again.