Vanderbilt Law Review

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This Article is based on an extensive study of the United States Courts of Appeals for the Eighth and Ninth Circuits that focused on two interrelated questions. The first question was how judges in geographically large circuits communicate with each other when they are not all stationed in the same city.' The focus of this Article is on the second question-the problem of intracircuit inconsistency. The study is based on largely open-ended interviews with the Ninth Circuit's active-duty and senior circuit judges and with some active-duty and senior district judges who had sat most frequently with the court of appeals over the period between 1971 and the interviews, which were conducted in 1977. It is part of an effort by students of the judicial process, who have concentrated their work on the Supreme Court of the United States, to pay more attention to the lower federal courts. It is thus an addition to the work of Schick, Howard,' Richardson and Vines,' Goldman,'" and Atkins and Green," and should help make better known what one circuit judge calls "The Court Nobody Knows."" In examining the courts, it is important to understand judicial decision making as viewed by its direct participants. Their explanations may, of course, be rationalizations. However, because they are in "the crucible of experience," studies of how they view the world in which they operate remain significant, and can assist in the development of explanations of judicial behavior. Since the United States Courts of Appeals are the "final resting place" for upwards of ninety-five percent of all federal cases, either because they are not appealed or because the Supreme Court denies review, aspects of the decision making processes of those courts are surely worthy of study.