Justice Anthony Kennedy is now officially a retired justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Among other things, this means that Kennedy no longer sits as the “circuit justice” for the 9th Circuit – a position in which he was responsible for both emergency requests (such as July’s request by the federal government for the Supreme Court to intervene in a climate-change lawsuit brought by children and teenagers) and more mundane matters, such as requests to extend the time to file a petition for review. Today the Supreme Court released a new set of circuit justice assignments, but the list remains relatively unchanged: Chief Justice John Roberts will take on the 9th Circuit, at least until a ninth justice is confirmed.
Although emergency requests are directed to the circuit justice for the geographic area from which a case arises (Alaska, Arizona, California, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Oregon, Montana, Nevada, Northern Mariana Islands and Washington collectively comprise the 9th Circuit, for example), the circuit justice can and generally does refer significant requests to the full court, as Kennedy did with the federal government’s application in the climate-change lawsuit. The circuits are often (but not always) assigned to a justice who has some connection with that geographic area: Justice Stephen Breyer is assigned to the 1st Circuit, where he sat as a judge before joining the court, while Justice Clarence Thomas, who hails from Georgia, is assigned to the 11th Circuit, which is made up of Alabama, Georgia and Florida. The chief justice normally takes on the District of Columbia, Federal and 4th Circuits, so it seems likely that this list could be further revised (and perhaps further reshuffled) when a new justice is confirmed.
This post was also published on SCOTUSblog.