University of Wisconsin–Madison

Doing the Circuit Splits

What is a circuit split? Rather than a delicious banana and ice cream dessert or a gymnastics move not for the flexibility challenged, a circuit split is a term to describe what happens when “two or more circuits in the U.S. Court of Appeals reach opposite interpretations of federal law.” (Quote from the Legal Information Institute at Cornell- a handy place to check out for other legal info, too!)

A circuit split is also great fodder for a legal research paper, since the existence of a circuit split is one of the factors that the Supreme Court of the United States considers to decide whether to grant certiorari of a case.

If you’re considering writing a paper on a topic where there’s a circuit split, or just want to know more, Bloomberg BNA is going to be your new BFF.

Through Bloomberg BNA’s “The United States Law Week”, you can access their monthly “Circuit Splits” reports, letting you know which courts have disagreed on the issues and why.

In order to access these reports, scroll down on the front page of "The United States Law Week" (as linked above" and click on "Circuit Splits" on the bottom left (as indicated in the screenshot below).

Screenshot of the front page of "The Law Week Reports" on Bloomberg BNA, with an arrow indicating where to click for the circuit split reports.

Next, you'll be taken to a page showing all of the Circuit Split reports in descending chronological order.

Screenshot of the monthly circuit reports in descending chronological order.

Then, you can choose a monthly report to look at (example shown is the one for October 2017).

Screenshot of the October 2017 circuit split report.

With the help of this tool, no longer will you have to fumble around with Shepardizing and tearing your hair out trying to figure out if other appellate courts have agreed (or not) on the issue you’re interested in.

In case you're looking for even more information on circuit splits as well as academic articles about them, Seton Hall Law also keeps a handy review of current circuit splits.

Submitted by Emma E Babler on November 9, 2017

This article appears in the categories: Law Library

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