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Judge Procter Hug, Jr. became Chief Judge of the Ninth Circuit on March 1, 1996. Nine months earlier, eight Senators from five western states had introduced Senate Bill 956. The purpose of the bill, as stated in its title, was "to divide the ninth judicial circuit of the United States into two circuits." If the bill had been enacted, it would have been only the third time in the 104-year history of the federal courts of appeals that a circuit was split. And it would have been the first time that Congress had divided a circuit without waiting for a consensus to develop among the bench and bar in the affected region.

Judge Hug was a prominent and highly respected figure in the legal community of Nevada, and he was held in the highest regard by his fellow judges on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. But unlike his predecessor, Judge J. Clifford Wallace, he was relatively unknown in the corridors of power where the fate of the Ninth Circuit would be decided. For that reason, there were, no doubt, those who felt a sense of concern. They might have asked: how will the Ninth Circuit fare with an untested leader at its helm?

Five years later, when Judge Hug stepped down as chief judge, the answer was clear: the Ninth Circuit fared very well. Although the circuit's continued existence as a single juridical entity was challenged again and again, each time the circuit emerged intact.

When an institution is under attack, the difference between success and failure often lies in leadership. As a scholar who followed the battle very closely, I shall discuss some of the qualities that characterized Judge Hug's leadership and how they contributed to the success of the circuit's campaign.