Our History and Mission

Founded in 1985 by Ninth Circuit Chief Judge James Browning, District Judge William Gray, and attorney John Sutro, Sr., among others, the mission of the NJCHS is to preserve and promote the vibrant history of the law in the Ninth Circuit, and to raise awareness of the important role that the judicial system plays in our society.

The NJCHS takes its name from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, the circuit that adjudicates federal law in nine western states and the Pacific Islands–Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, the Northern Mariana Islands, and Guam.

The Society held its first meeting in Sun Valley, Idaho in 1986 in conjunction with the Ninth Circuit’s annual Judicial Conference. A board of directors was elected at that meeting, and plans for the Society’s work were made, including for the publication of a new journal, Western Legal History.  The Board hired Chet Orloff, a historian and assistant director of the Oregon Historical Society, as the Society’s first Executive Director on January 22, 1987. 

The Society was off and running, publishing books, collecting oral histories, and launching its first exhibit, The Constitution and the Courts.  The first volume of Western Legal History was published in 1988.

Over thirty years later, the NJCHS is still going strong, serving over 2,000 members, the legal profession, historians, court personnel, school children, and the general public. Programs and activities include:

  • Western Legal History, our scholarly journal
  • Our Oral History Program, recording the life stories of judges and other prominent members of the legal profession
  • Traveling Exhibit Program, displaying exhibits in courthouses, law schools, and other venues throughout the Circuit.
  • Programming on topics relevant to court history in the Ninth Circuit.

Join the NJCHS and be a part of history!

Member benefits include:

  • Subscription to our flagship publication Western Legal History
  • Special recognition in the Honor Roll of Members published in each edition of our journal
  • Discounts on books published by the NJCHS and others
  • First notice of our sold out events like our Trivia Night and our Annual Gala
  • Essential support for the creation/distribution of civics outreach materials