Falwell wrong on 9th Circuit “eggheads” who he claimed “get their rulings overturned almost every time”

Moral Majority founder and Faith and Values Coalition national chairman Reverend Jerry Falwell attempted to dismiss the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals as part of “the little noisy, squeaky, left-leaning minority” and as the prime example of “a runaway federal judiciary,” falsely claiming that the “23 eggheads out there” on the 9th Circuit “get their rulings overturned almost every time.” Also during his televised December 19 sermon, Falwell advocated “doing away” with the 9th Circuit; he was apparently referring to legislation that the U.S. House of Representatives recently passed as an amendment to the Bankruptcy Judgeship Act, which would split the 9th Circuit into three parts.

But according to Supreme Court litigation firm Goldstein & Howe, only four circuit courts had a better reversal record in 2003. As this chart (PDF) details, the 9th Circuit had the fifth-lowest rate of reversals among the nation's thirteen circuit courts. Six of the thirteen circuit courts -- including the conservative 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals -- had 100-percent reversal rates.

In a July 3 Sacramento Bee article, Bee legal affairs writer Claire Cooper wrote: “The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals defied its renegade reputation by having its opinions upheld at a better-than-average rate during the just-concluded [2003] Supreme Court term.” Cooper also noted that “the results have changed little in recent years but much since the 1996-97 term. A record of 17 unanimous reversals and a single close affirmance that year earned the Western circuit [the 9th Circuit] its reputation as the nation's 'most reversed.'”

Alliance for Justice, a progressive group that monitors the judicial selection process, shows that Republican presidents appointed nine of the 25 judges currently sitting on the 9th Circuit; President George W. Bush appointed four of those nine. Democratic presidents appointed the remaining 16 judges.

From Falwell's December 19 televised sermon, broadcast from his Thomas Road Baptist Church:

FALWELL: [W]hy [can] so few hurt so many? Why does the minority, the little noisy, squeaky, left-leaning minority, the Michael Moore crowd, the group in Hollywood, the Barbra Streisand -- why do we allow a few, just a few, to ruin a good thing? There are five reasons for what's happened. Here's why so few can hurt so many: 1) We have a runaway federal judiciary. We've appointed some bad eggs on the federal courts and we need to change that. And by the way, we don't have to impeach them, all we have to do is do away with the court. We just learned that recently. The 9th Circuit is going to be the first to go. We're going to get rid of the 23 eggheads out there who get their rulings overturned almost every time.