[JURIST] The US Department of Justice [official website] said Tuesday that it is backing an attempt by congressional Republicans to split up the largest federal appeals court in the US, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website], which currently covers 54 million people and has 28 judgeships. In a letter addressed to House Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) [official website] released Tuesday by Sen. Jon Ensign (R-NV), Assistant Attorney General William E. Moschella [White House profile] wrote that dividing up the Ninth Circuit would improve the administration of justice, saying that the size of the Ninth Circuit has lead to "serious administrative difficulties that have adversely affected its ability to render justice efficiently." Sensenbrenner introduced legislation [JURIST report] last month, the Federal Judgeship and Administrative Efficiency Act of 2005 [HR 4093 text], which would create a Ninth Circuit that would cover California, Hawaii and the Pacific Islands, and a new 12th Circuit covering Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Nevada and Arizona. House Republicans are moving to fast-track the bill by adding it to a pending deficit-cutting bill. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, (D-CA) [official website] is in strong opposition to breaking up the circuit and has asked Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-PA) [official website] to assert jurisdiction over the issue and argue against including it in the budget-cutting bill. A Senate Judiciary subcommittee held a hearing on the issue last month [JURIST report] but the full committee has not yet considered a similar circuit-splitting proposal [S. 1301 bill summary] offered by Ensign and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AL). AP has more.
11:54 AM ET - Read the DOJ letter [PDF text, via How Appealing] to Sensenbrenner endorsing a split of the Ninth Circuit.