New Circuit Justice Assignments:
Samuel Alito's arrival at the Court has led to a slight reshuffling of Circuit Justice duties, announced here. Justice O'Connor used to be the Circuit Justice for the Ninth Circuit. Instead of just giving the Ninth Circuit to Alito (obligatory Henny Youngman joke: "Take the Ninth Circuit — Please!"), the Court reshuffled a bit. Justice Kennedy, a former Ninth Circuit judge, has taken the Ninth Circuit and given up the Eleventh. Justice Thomas, a native of Georgia, has taken the Eleventh Circuit from Kennedy and given up the Eighth. Finally, Justice Alito has been given the Eighth. Seems like a sensible shift.

  Does it matter, you're wondering? Well, not much. The Circuit Justice over a particular circuit is responsible for deciding emergency motions from that Circuit, as well as routine matters like filing date extensions. But anything important is referred to the full Court for a full Court vote. As a practical matter, probably the biggest duty of a Circuit Justice relates to death penalty cases. While the Circuit Justice will always refer a petition for a stay or to grant cert in a capital case to the full Court, that Justice can set the tone of whether a particular case merits the Court's review.

  Thanks to SCOTUSblog for the link.