Each Supreme Court justice recently received their circuit assignments. Justice Amy Coney Barrett received the Seventh Circuit, which includes the states of Wisconsin, Illinois, and Indiana.
Justice Barrett was a Seventh Circuit judge for three years, so perhaps it’s not surprising that she has been assigned that circuit as a member of SCOTUS.
Circuit assignments are not something irrelevant. They matter significantly, especially in a time when the president and his lawyers are contesting the election results in several states. One prime example was when Justice Samuel Alito ordered the separation of mail-in ballots that arrived after Election Day in Pennsylvania. Alito was able to do this because the Third Circuit is one of his assignments—the circuit in which Pennsylvania is located. If a liberal justice were overseeing the Third District, he or she might’ve ignored the Pennsylvania’s GOP emergency application on the matter.
Here’s a brief explanation of the circuit court system courtesy of Law & Crime:
The federal court system is made up of district courts, appellate courts, and the U.S. Supreme Court. After a case has made its way through one of the nation’s 94 trial courts, a party may appeal to the circuit court in their jurisdiction. The image below helpfully outlines what the circuit boundaries are and identifies them by circuit number.
[…] [T]here are 13 federal circuits.
The First through Eleventh Circuit courts are self-explanatory. The District of Columbia Circuit, given its location, handles some of the most high-profile and controversial political appeals in the country. The Federal Circuit, as the court’s website notes, is unique in its nationwide jurisdiction and the kinds of claims it handles:
[…] It has nationwide jurisdiction in a variety of subject areas, including international trade, government contracts, patents, trademarks, certain money claims against the United States government, federal personnel, veterans’ benefits, and public safety officers’ benefits claims. Appeals to the court come from all federal district courts, the United States Court of Federal Claims, the United States Court of International Trade, and the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. The court also reviews certain administrative agency decisions, including those
from the U.S. Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, the U.S. Patent Trial and Appeal Board, the Boards of Contract Appeals, the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board, the Congressional Office of Compliance, the Government Accountability Office Personnel Appeals Board, and the U.S. International Trade Commission.
The now conservative-leaning Supreme Court will be acutely interesting and relevant for years to come. This is true regardless of whether Joe Biden or Donald Trump occupy the White House. The political balance of the court has shifted, there will likely be continued congressional gridlock, and one side will have their confidence in the entire political system shattered if the other side has their man in the Oval Office. What a time to be alive.