In the interest of informing the public, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit welcomes media coverage of legal matters coming before the court.
In almost all cases, oral arguments before an appellate panel are open to the press and public. In certain high-profile cases, the court may reserve courtroom seating for the media. Reporters should contact the court to determine whether reserve seating is available.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is one of two federal appellate courts to regularly allow still and video cameras and audio recorders in the courtroom for purposes of reporting on the proceeding. Rules pertaining to use of these devices are explained in the court’s “Guidelines for Photographing, Recording and Broadcasting in the Courtroom.” See below.
Opinions will generally be displayed on this website by 10 a.m. Pacific Time and Memorandum Dispositions by 1 p.m. Pacific Time on the day of filing. The court uses an electronic case filing (ECF) system, which makes docket information and other documents available via the internet. A PACER account will be necessary to access these files.
If a case is being prosecuted by a U.S. attorney, that attorney’s office will often have a designated public relations contact who can provide up-to-date information.
The Federal Courts
There are local, state and federal court systems. They each have completely separate personnel, administration and facilities, but cases may move from one system to another depending on a variety of legal circumstances. We will only be talking about the federal court system in these pages.
The Federal Courts
The federal courts have three main levels: district courts (the trial court), circuit courts which are the first level of appeal, and the Supreme Court of the United States, the final level of appeal in the federal system. There are 94 district courts, 13 circuit courts, and one Supreme Court in the U.S. For more information, visit the Introduction to the Federal Courts page.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is an appellate court that reviews the procedures and the decisions to make sure that the proceedings were fair and that the proper law was applied correctly in the trial courts within the 15 judicial districts that comprise the Ninth Circuit.
The Office of the Circuit Executive (OCE) was created by statute to provide professional administrative staffing to circuit councils. The OCE provides administrative support to the Judicial Council of the Ninth Circuit and its various committees. It also provides direct services to all 64 judicial court units in the circuit.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has four courthouses located in Pasadena, Portland, San Francisco and Seattle, while the 15 judicial districts throughout the circuit have 57 courthouses for a total of 61 courthouses in the circuit. Click here for links to districts.
The Ninth Circuit is currently authorized 29 appellate judgeships. Active and senior judges hear appeals of decisions in cases that have been decided by U.S. district courts. An appellant, the party who appeals a district court’s decision, usually seeks reversal of that decision. Oral arguments are heard by a three-judge panel. Parties may file for petitions for a case to be heard or reheard en banc. An en banc panel in the Ninth Circuit consists of 11 randomly selected judges. The chief judge of the circuit presides over the hearing. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal operates somewhat differently than other circuits. Most circuits hold en banc hearings with all judges in the court of appeals. Due to the large number of judges in the Ninth Circuit, en banc hearings are held with 11 judges.
Following a final appellate court ruling, parties to the case can then petition with the U.S. Supreme Court to review the ruling. At its discretion, and within the certain guidelines established by Congress, the Supreme Court may grant or deny the petition. The court hears a small percentage of cases it is asked to review each year. If the petition to review the ruling is denied, then the appellate court ruling stands.
U.S. district courts have jurisdiction to hear nearly all categories of federal cases, including both civil and criminal matters. Two territories of the United States, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands, have U.S. district courts that hear federal cases, including bankruptcy cases. More information about the federal courts is available on the U.S. Courts website.
Links to Pacer Records System
Public Access to Court Electronic Records, or PACER, is the judiciary’s electronic method of providing access to court dockets and to copies of documents filed with the court. You may register for PACER online. There is no registration fee but there is an established user fee to be collected for access to PACER; however, if usage in a quarter is $30 or less, PACER fees are waived. For more information on PACER fees, and circumstances in which PACER use is free, see “PACER Pricing: How fees work.”
Via PACER, you can examine the docket for a particular case, which will provide the names of all parties, the names and contact information for the attorneys of record and an itemization of every document filed in the case by name, filer and date. Case documents are accessible from the docket via hyperlinks.
PACER provides online access to dockets (case information) for a fee of $0.10 per page, though the first $30 of charges per quarter per user are waived. Register here.
How to register for alerts via CM/ECF
Journalists and interested members of the public can register for Special Mailing Group (SMG) accounts within the court's electronic filing system to be kept abreast of developments in a case.
Once you have a CM/ECF account, you can sign up for Notices of Electronic Filing (“NEFs”) in particular cases. Learn how to sign up for NEFs.
Once you have registered for NEFs in a particular case, you will receive notification via email that a document is available to be viewed electronically via PACER.
NEFs will tell you:
- Who filed the document
- Who was served with electronic (email) notice of the filing electronically
- Date and time of filing
- Document(s) title(s)
- Docket text associated with the document(s)
- On which party’s behalf the document was submitted
- A hyperlink to open an Adobe PDF copy of the document. (If you open the hyperlink, you will be prompted to log into PACER to view/download the document.)
Frequently asked questions
Here are answers to a few of the oft-asked questions from media representatives
Does Judge X have any comment on Case X or available for an interview?
“In keeping with ethics rules, federal judges do not grant interviews about active cases. Judges “speak” through comments made in open court or through written decisions. Reporters must rely on the official case proceedings as their primary information source.” (Federal Court: Media Basics – Journalist’s Guide https://www.uscourts.gov/statistics-reports/federal-court-media-basics-journalists-guide)
Reporters can email email@example.com for other questions. Please include your deadline and allow 1-2 business days for a response.
Can you explain Judge X’s ruling to me and what it means?
It is essential for reporters to understand and be able to translate legal jargon and procedures for readers or viewers. Please find a glossary at https://www.ca9.uscourts.gov/general/glossary/. If in doubt, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
When is the next hearing in Case X?
If the case is not already listed on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals website (https://www.ca9.uscourts.gov/) under “Calendar” (https://www.ca9.uscourts.gov/calendar/), register for a CM/ECF account as a “Public Interested Person.” Once your registration has been processed, log in and click Utilities in the menu and select Notice for Cases of Interest. Complete the fields and add case(s) by case number. You can only select one email address to use for the notices (the one specified during registration or a different one). When you have saved your settings, you will start receiving notices of docket activity for all transactions entered in the case(s). Note that you will be charged for viewing the document(s) you access from the notices of docket activity, according to existing PACER rules.
Can I attend or watch an oral argument?
Oral arguments are currently virtual and without audience due to COVID-19 regulations. You can watch the live streaming of the oral arguments at https://www.ca9.uscourts.gov/media/live-oral-arguments/ or view the recording or listen to the audio, usually posted the same day, at https://www.ca9.uscourts.gov/media/.
Can I photograph or record the oral argument or courtroom?Until further notice, all Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals courthouses remain closed to the public due to COVID-19 regulations. Please refer to the court’s website under “Announcements” to check for “COVID Operational Updates.”
Guidelines for broadcasting, recording and still photography in the courtroom, once open, are at https://cdn.ca9.uscourts.gov/datastore/uploads/news_media/camera.guidelines.pdf. An application to broadcast, record or take still photographs during court proceedings must be received by the clerk of court more than two business days before the date of the oral argument. The application can be completed online at https://www.ca9.uscourts.gov/news-media/camera-application/.
As an option, members of the media are welcome to embed the link of the live stream on their news organization’s website or broadcast the live stream. Once the recordings are released on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/c/9thCircuit/videos, or on the court’s website https://www.ca9.uscourts.gov/media/, members of the media are welcome to use them without further permission. Note that the recording is good quality for speech intelligibility but not for radio quality.
How do I file a motion on behalf of the media to unseal a case or document?
Please refer to Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure (FRAP), Ninth Circuit Rule 27-13. Sealed Documents on page 99. The rules note: “Motions to unseal may be made on any grounds permitted by law.” In practice, anyone not a party to the case can only file a motion to unseal if they submit it with a motion to intervene for the purpose of filing the motion to unseal. The seeker would have to be added to the case’s docket as a proposed intervenor, something like a party to the case. http://cdn.ca9.uscourts.gov/datastore/uploads/rules/frap.pdf.
How do I order a transcript?
The Court of Appeals does not make transcripts, only districts provide them. Appellate proceedings are on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/9thcirc
Can I have a copy of the following order or document?
If available to the public, it can be found on PACER. Opinions can be found via the COA’s website: https://www.ca9.uscourts.gov/opinions/. There are some free opinions available at https://www.govinfo.gov/app/collection/uscourts.