Appeals Court Known for Contentious Rulings

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals (search) has a well-earned reputation for provocative rulings.

It is also known for being the nation's most-reversed federal appeals court -- partly because its 40 presidentially appointed judges make it the largest federal appeals bench in the nation. It is also viewed as the most liberal federal appeals court.

Before Monday's decision to postpone California's recall vote, judges on the San Francisco-based court were most noted for their 2002 opinion that declared the Pledge of Allegiance (search) unconstitutional when recited in public schools. That decision has been appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Just two weeks ago, the 9th Circuit overturned more than 100 death sentences in Arizona, Idaho, Montana and Nevada (search). That case is likely to be taken to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court reversed the 9th Circuit after it upheld the right of California marijuana clubs to dole out pot to the sick. It also reversed a 9th Circuit ruling overturning a law allowing authorities to kick tenants out of federal housing projects for drug use.

Sometimes the 9th Circuit reverses its own controversial three-judge decisions before cases reach the Supreme Court -- such as a ruling that inmates have a right to mail their sperm from prison. And contrary to its liberal image, the court reinstated tough Reagan-era drug sentencing laws.