The Eleventh Circuit is one of the most conservative federal appeals courts in the country. Seven of the 11 active judges were nominated by Republican presidents via the Federalist Society pipeline. Six of the 10 senior judges were nominated by Republican presidents. Even the four Democratic nominees in the senior-judge pool have proved themselves to be conservative-adjacent. But not all is lost.
The court is fallible. The Supreme Court has regularly granted certiorari and reversed our hometown appeals court. In just the last seven years, we can point to seven criminal-case or capital-habeas reversals, two of which came from the Northern District of Georgia. See Van Buren v. United States, 141 S. Ct. 1648 (2021); Rehaif v. United States, 139 S. Ct. 2191 (2019); Wilson v. Sellers, 138 S. Ct. 1188 (2018); United States v. Hughes, 138 S. Ct. 1765 (2018); Welch v. United States, 136 S. Ct. 1257 (2016); Luis v. United States, 136 S. Ct. 1083 (2015); Johnson v. United States, 135 S. Ct. 2551 (2015).
This is hardly a recent trend. During the period between 2007 and 2021, the Supreme Court reversed the Eleventh Circuit no fewer than 51 times, or an average of four cases per term, or in 70 percent of cases. Among the 13 federal circuit courts, only three have seen more reversals than the Eleventh Circuit. All the stat-heads out there will find plenty more analytics on Ballotpedia’s Eleventh Circuit page.
As we shove our appellate boats from the district-court shoreline into hostile Eleventh Circuit waters, let’s keep our heads held high. If the court sinks our vessels, the Supreme Court helicopter may well lift us to safety.