9th Circuit Court visits Tucson

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals is the best known and likely the most controversial of the nation's 13 circuit courts.

It gets that because politicians and bloggers like to point out the 9th circuit is the most overturned of all the courts. That makes the court a high profile target.

"We don't want to be the most overturned," says Circuit Court Judge N. Randy Smith. "On the other hand, we're going to do what we think is right."

To be fair, the court hears far more cases than any of the other circuit courts so it would stand to reason they get overturned more.

"We're going to do what we think we need to do and if the Supreme Court sees it otherwise, well, they do," Judge Smith says.

Judge Smith was one of a three judge panel at the University of Arizona Roger's School of Law, invited by the Rehnquist Center.

The other two judges were Senior Circuit Judge William Canby, Jr. and District Judge Larry A. Burns.

Burns is familiar with the Tucson legal community for hearing the Jared Loughner case in San Diego. Loughner pleaded guilty to killing six people and wounding Congresswoman Gabrielle Gifford in 2011.

The judges heard oral arguments in two Arizona cases, one involving an appeal in a murder case and the other with child pornography.

While the two cases are serious and the judges treated them as such, another reason for their appearance in Tucson was to give students at the law school a chance to see the court at work.

"I think the value is they want to be lawyers and they need to see what the courts do," Judge Smith says. "So we try to take cases close to them so they get a chance to see how they go."

During an informal question and answer session following the cases, the students had the opportunity to probe deeper to get a sense of how the judges work the courtroom.

One of the most important things the judges told the student is answer their questions.

"I wouldn't ask the question if I didn't want an answer," Judge Smith says. "If you don't answer my question then you're not helping me in the least."