Remember the Ninth Circuit Curse? We wrote about it back in 2007, noting that “anyone who tries to mess with the Mighty Ninth eventually finds himself (or herself) in deep doo-doo.” Several politicians who have advocated splitting the Ninth Circuit — a sprawling court that can be challenging to administer, to be sure — have found themselves in some form of trouble or another. E.g., Senators Larry Craig, Ted Stevens, and Lisa Murkowski.
Now they’re joined by another. Although his sex scandal is being overshadowed by that of another Republican politician, Nevada Senator John Ensign (pictured) is watching his popularity plummet, after he admitted to an affair with an ex-staffer (who was once on the Ensign payroll, along with her husband). He may face an investigation into his conduct.
If anyone was going to fall victim to the Ninth Circuit Curse, it would be Senator Ensign. As noted on his website, “Senator Ensign has… taken the lead on legislation to split the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.” Not only did he push hard for splitting the circuit, but he actually testified in support of the split, at the time of the last big push for dividing the court.
The full tally of victims, after the jump.
The following politicians have fallen victim to the Ninth Circuit Curse:
All have either fallen into some sort of ethical, legal, or political trouble — e.g., defeated, prosecuted, under investigation, or resigned from high office.
Interestingly enough, the curse seems to be limited to officials elected from within the Ninth Circuit. Circuit-splitters from elsewhere, like Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner and Sen. Jeff Sessions, have suffered setbacks but no actual defeats — yet….
Update: Just a point of clarification. The Ninth Circuit is a large and unwieldy court, and there are good arguments to be made in favor of splitting it. See, e.g., here (op-ed by Professor Brian Fitzpatrick) and here (testimony of our former boss, Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain). In pointing out the curse, we’re just noting an interesting coincidence.
Further Update: For some arguments against splitting the court, as expressed by 33 (!) judges of the Ninth Circuit, see here (PDF).
P.S. Speaking of the Ninth Circuit, we’ll be attending the Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference this year, where we’ll be speaking on a panel with some rather distinguished company: Linda Greenhouse (moderator), former Supreme Court correspondent for the New York Times; Judge Robert Lasnik, chief judge of the Western District of Washington; Harold W. Fuson, Jr., Executive Vice President, Copley Press; and Nina Totenberg, of NPR.