Federal Procedure,  Ninth Circuit,  Rehearing

En Bancs on the Upswing under Chief Judge Kozinski

Alex KozinskiImage from Wikipedia

In yesterday’s Daily Journal, Staff Reporter John Roemer has a front-page article about an apparent surge in en banc rehearings granted by the Ninth Circuit since Alex Kozinski became Chief Judge. (Full disclosure: yours truly is quoted in the article.)

Are the two phenomena related? Not according to Judge Kozinski, whom the article quotes:

“I’ve always been more en banc friendly than many of my colleagues,” he wrote in the e-mail. “But I frankly doubt that my being chief judge will have any effect on the process. I’ve had my share of successes as well as failures when calling for en banc review.

“There are not – and should not be – extra points for being chief judge. It is not a bully pulpit, nor is it a platform for proliferation of my substantive views .”

Roemer provides interesting background on Judge Kozinski’s history of fervent advocacy for en banc review, including a colorful description of his frequent dissents from orders denying rehearing en banc as “prose hand grenades lobbed to blast the court away from the status quo.” I think Judge Kozinski would approve.

It seems possible, at least, that the judges may be more willing to take on en banc rehearings since last July, when it reverted to 11-member en banc panels after a brief experiment with 15-member panels. That would make a greater number of en bancs more manageable. But I don’t have any information on whether en bancs went down during the roughly 18 months they required 15-member panels, so I have no idea if the size of the panel is affecting the judges’ thinking.

For anyone considering petitioning for rehearing en banc, the article contains some sobering numbers: 1,097 petitions for rehearing en banc were filed in 2007, and through November, only 18 had been granted. That’s less than 2%.

By the way, Judge Kozinski is the subject of the cover article in April’s California Lawyer.