9th Circuit Court of Appeals Visit Draws Crowd to W. H. Gates Hall

Visits by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit are always a treat for University of Washington law students, but the April 6 appearance attracted a larger crowd than normal. The three-judge panel, consisting of Senior Circuit Judge William Canby Jr. and circuit judges Johnnie Rawlinson and Richard Tallman, heard oral arguments in four cases, including the highly publicized Santiago v. Rumsfeld.

The case deals with the Pentagon’s controversial ‘stop-loss’ policy, which has extended the service times of approximately 50,000 soldiers beyond the discharge dates of their original contracts. Appellant Emilio Santiago, a 26-year-old member of the Oregon National Guard, was just two weeks shy of completing his eight-year commitment in June 2004 when the military informed him that his contract had been extended to 2031. Following the hearing a crowd of poster-waving supporters and reporters followed Santiago and his family to the law school's terrace for interviews. Later that afternoon, in a speedy ruling, the panel upheld a District Court's decision denying the soldier’s request to delay his deployment to Afghanistan.

The judges also heard arguments in the Everett, Wash. case, Doe v. United States, regarding a Navy wife's fight to have the military pay for an abortion of her anencephalic fetus. Anencephaly is a fatal birth defect, where the fetal forebrain, cerebellum and cranium are missing. Two years ago a U.S. District Court ruled that the military’s medical system, Tricare, must pay for the abortion. The Justice Department is asking the court to reverse that ruling.

Two additional cases were also on the docket: United States v. Marquez, a warrantless search at the airport, and Ebert v. Braddock, a challenge to Washington state’s alleged under funding of a state entitlement program.

While observers in the Toni Rembe Appellate Courtroom adhered to proper courtroom decorum, the almost 200 people assembled in the Magnuson/Jackson Courtroom next door, freely expressed their thoughts. Judge Canby’s comment “It’s been a bad day for recruiting generally” in response to the Justice Department attorney’s statement that taxpayers should not pay for abortions in cases of anencephaly, elicited laughter, cheers and applause.

For media coverage about the court’s visit to the School of Law, visit law.washington.edu/news.