The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit is an intermediate appellate court in the United States federal court system. It convenes in four locations. The main offices are located at 95 Seventh Street in San Francisco, California. Cases are also heard at the Park Place Building in Seattle, Washington, the Richard H. Chambers U.S. Court of Appeals Building in Portland, Oregon, and the Pioneer Courthouse in Pasadena, California.
The Ninth Circuit hears appeals from United States District Courts in Alaska, Arizona, California (4 district courts), Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, the Northern Mariana Islands, Oregon, and Washington (2 district courts). It currently has 37 judges, 24 of whom are Senior Judges. The Chief Judge is Mary M. Schroeder.
The Ninth is the largest judicial circuit by far; it is also widely regarded as the most "liberal" on social issues (most famously because of the Newdow v. U.S. Congress case involving the phrase "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance). Many politicians and lawyers have proposed splitting the Ninth Circuit, partly to make it less disproportionately big, and partly to lessen the broad impact of its decisions. Bills have been proposed in both houses of Congress to form a new 13-judge United States Court of Appeals for the Twelfth Circuit, incorporating all of the Ninth Circuit states except California and Nevada. The bills were not passed during the 2003-05 Congress, but have been placed back on the legislative table in 2005.
Interestingly, the Ninth Circuit was originally in the most socially-conservative part of the United States: when it was created in 1837, it covered Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi. Louisiana and Alabama were removed in 1842. Then, in 1862, the circuit jumped over to the Midwest, covering Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, and Missouri. It never returned to the South after the Civil War: instead, it was moved to California in 1866, where it has remained ever since, growing larger with the expansion of the Union.