Circuit split

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In the context of United States federal courts, a circuit split exists when two or more circuits in the United States court of appeals system have different interpretations of federal law.

The concept is sometimes key to the United States Supreme Court's decision to accept a case.[1] In that instance, the Supreme Court may hear an appeal to clarify federal law or to settle the circuit split (by making a ruling that is binding nationwide). The opportunity to settle a circuit split is one of three considerations the Supreme Court looks to when deciding whether to hear a particular case.[2]

Circuit splits can also influence lower courts, particularly where a trial or appellate court in a circuit is considering an issue that is new to that circuit (an issue of first impression) and other circuits have split on that issue. Courts considering an issue of first impression will generally consider the competing decisions by other circuits on that issue, as those decisions are persuasive authority.


  1. ^ Perry, H.W. (1991). Deciding to decide: agenda setting in the United States Supreme Court. Harvard University Press. pp. 251. ISBN 978-0-674-19442-7. Retrieved 2009-06-04. 
  2. ^ Rules of the Supreme Court of the United States, Rule 10, pp. 5-6 (2010).