Courtroom points new circuit assignments

Symposium: A takedown of the Blaine Amendments

Posted on Friday November 20th, 2020 at 12:06 PM by Amy Howe

Less than a month after Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation, the Supreme Court on Friday issued a new series of judicial assignments that will take effect immediately. Barrett was assigned to the 7th Circle, where she served as a judge for three years before becoming a judge. Two other judges, Sonia Sotomayor and Neil Gorsuch, were also assigned for the first time to the circles on which they had previously served as judges – Sotomayor to the 2nd circle and Gorsuch to the 10th circle.

A Circuit Justice is primarily responsible for emergency inquiries (e.g., a request to block or allow an execution) from the geographic area covered by its Circuit, as well as more secular matters such as renewal requests for registration deadlines. However, judges can and often will forward critical urgency requests to the court – a role that has become increasingly important in recent years due to the surge in activity in the court’s “shadow protocol”. A map of the geographic regions covered by each circuit can be found here.

Sotomayor’s move to Circuit 2 previously assigned to the late Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg (who grew up and lived in New York City before moving to Washington to serve as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit started a game with music circles among the judges. Sotomayor was previously responsible for the 10th Circuit now assigned to Gorsuch and the 6th Circuit now assigned to Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Kavanaugh, who had previously been assigned to the 7th circuit, also took over the 8th circuit and gave the 7th circuit to Barrett.

The new circuit assignment list signaled a respite for Judge Stephen Breyer, who normally serves as circuit judge for the relatively small 1st circuit. Since Ginsburg’s death in September, Breyer has also pinched the rules of the Supreme Court as a district judge for the larger and busier 2nd district. Emergency inquiries and requests for extensions from the 2nd circuit are now initially sent to Sotomayor.

This post was originally published on Howe on the Court.

Posted in Featured, Emergency Complaints, and Applications

Recommended citation:
Amy Howe, court issues new switching orders,
SCOTUSblog (November 20, 2020, 12:06 p.m.),