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Musical Circuit Justice Chairs

As usual when a new Justice joins the Supreme Court, the Court has issued a new order assigning Circuit Justices. Circuits D.C.* and 1-5 are unchanged, as are 8, 10, 11, and Fed.

Justice Kagan previously had the Sixth and Seventh, from Tennessee to Wisconsin. Now she gets the massive Ninth, which the Chief had taken temporarily while Justice Kennedy's chair was vacant.

Justice Sotomayor gets the Sixth in addition to her previously assigned Tenth. Justice Gorsuch keeps the Eighth, but I wouldn't be surprised to see him reassigned to his home Tenth a few years down the road, when all the cases he participated in have flushed out of the system.

Justice Kavanaugh is assigned the Seventh: Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin.

So why does any of this matter?
Applications for stays of lower court orders are addressed to the circuit justices, but in practice they routinely refer them to the full court. Sometimes the circuit justice will individually grant a brief stay to give the full court more time. Justice Thomas is particularly prone to do that.

The main thing the circuit justices decide on their own is requests for extensions of time. That mattered when Justice Scalia was assigned the Fifth, with its large number of capital cases. He was very strict on extensions. It matters less now, as they are all relatively lax about it.

* Math nerd question: Should D.C. be considered the Zeroth Circuit? It is always listed before the First on the allotment order.

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