I've only recently added the Ninth Circuit to my roster of circuits that I cover, and it's already become one of my favorites. Is it the interesting issues that arise in the Ninth Circuit with its vast geographic scope? Nope. Is it the drama in the circuit as it fights to keep the title "most reversed circuit"? Nah.
It's the website. Really.
Other Circuit Court Websites
If you don't practice in another circuit, there's probably little reason for you to have seen the mess that other circuits call official websites (I'm looking at you Seventh Circuit). Some circuit court websites look like they haven't been updated in more than ten years, while others, though recently updated, make it very difficult to search newly decided cases that are not decided that very day (ahem, Tenth Circuit).
Lack of Uniformity
What's even more amazing is the complete lack of uniformity among the circuit court websites. They vary so much in appearance and utility, if we didn't know better, we would have no idea that the websites are for courts that are part of the same judicial system. We can understand states having different judicial websites, but the federal circuit courts? They share rules, laws, procedures -- why are they not uniform?
9th: Lead by Example
The Ninth Circuit website is one of the best (if not the best) circuit court website. It's easy to navigate and constantly updated. From the home page alone you can access up-to-date news, announcements and read up on recent filing in cases of interest. The fact that one of the places the court sits is San Francisco, a tech hub in its own right, and not very far from Silicon Valley, makes sense.
Designing an easy-to-use website is not exactly cutting edge stuff, but I guess when it comes to the federal judiciary it just might be. We're hoping other circuits will take a look at the Ninth Circuit website and bring their own circuit court websites up to speed.
- (Judge) John Owens Confirmed for 9th Circuit Bench (FindLaw's U.S. Ninth Circuit Blog)
- Judge Cebull: Retired, but Not Forgotten by the Conduct Committee (FindLaw's U.S. Ninth Circuit Blog)
- 3 Quick Tips for New Attorneys Filing in The 9th Circuit (FindLaw's U.S. Ninth Circuit Blog)