WASHINGTON (CN) - Capitol Hill’s crosshairs turned Thursday on the Ninth Circuit just a day after a federal judge under the court’s purview became the latest to thwart efforts by the president to block Muslim immigration.
The Ninth Circuit had already earned criticism from the White House in February after it ruled 3-0 against the first iteration of President Donald Trump’s travel ban.
When a federal judge on Hawaii issued an injunction against the revised executive order Wednesday, Trump complained that night at a campaign-style rally in Nashville that his new travel ban had been tailored to the “much-overturned” circuit’s "flawed ruling.”
The Ninth Circuit is the largest federal appeals court in the country, overseeing far-flung federal courts in Hawaii, Alaska, the Northern Mariana Islands and Guam, as well as those in Arizona, California, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon and Washington state.
Last month’s ruling had Trump to blast the Ninth Circuit as "in chaos" and "frankly in turmoil.” Republicans have long said the court is too big, too liberal and too slow, and they have tried for decades to break it up.
At a hearing Thursday before the House Judiciary Committee on how to restructure the court, a partisan debate erupted over the GOP’s claims that Ninth Circuit rulings are overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court more so than often than any other federal appeals court.
Vanderbilt University Law School professor Brian Fitzpatrick said he has been tracking reversal rates for several decades.
"The numbers did not look good for the Ninth Circuit back then, and they still don’t look good today," Fitzpatrick said in written testimony. “For the last 20 years, the Ninth Circuit has been the most reversed circuit in America — and it isn’t even close.”
Numbers compiled by the fact-checking organization Politifact dispute this. It says the Supreme Court reversed 70 percent of all cases it heard from 2010-15. Though the average for the Ninth Circuit was slightly higher than that at 79 percent, it was not the highest. Two other courts clock in ahead of it.
The Cincinnati-based Sixth Circuit had an 87 percent reversal rate, followed by the Atlanta-based 11th Circuit with an 85 percent ruling reversal.
Indeed the Ninth Circuit is only narrowly ahead of the 78 percent reversal rate featured by the court in fourth place, the Philadelphia-based Third Circuit.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., put the Ninth Circuit statistics a different way.
"Less than one-tenth of 1 percent of Ninth Circuit decisions are overturned by the Supreme Court," he said.