Both lawsuits were filed by atheist Michael Newdow, who convinced the Ninth Circuit in 2002 that recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance in schools is unconstitutional. The U.S. Supreme Court overturned that decision on a technicality, which Newdow has since avoided in re-filing a similar suit. A federal district judge in Sacramento sided with Newdow against the Pledge of Allegiance but rejected a separate attempt by him to have the national motto, "In God We Trust," removed from our nation's currency.
The Pacific Justice Institute intervened as a co-defendant with the U.S. government in the national motto case. PJI Chief Counsel Kevin Snider, who argued in defense of "In God We Trust" at the Ninth Circuit last year, commented, "While the courts have shown some alarming tendencies to agree with Michael Newdow, particularly in his battle against the Pledge of Allegiance, the good news is that he has not yet succeeded in silencing recitation of the Pledge throughout the West Coast, or in erasing In God We Trust from our national currency." Karen Milam, who heads PJI's Southern California office, added, "PJI responds to thousands of request for help every year, but these two cases are particularly important because of their nationwide implications. For this reason, the Pacific Justice Institute will continue to defend our time-honored national traditions - all the way to the Supreme Court, if necessary."
With no time limits on its decision-making process, the Ninth Circuit stands in contrast to both the U.S. and California Supreme Courts. The U.S. Supreme Court begins its annual term in October and typically announces all of its decisions by June. The California Supreme Court issues decisions within ninety days after oral arguments are held. The Ninth Circuit is easily the largest of the twelve federal circuit courts, having jurisdiction over nine western states as well as Pacific territories. Several legal commentators and even Ninth Circuit judges have called in vain for its division into two or more smaller circuits to increase efficiency.