Trying again on judge shopping

If at first you don’t succeed

U.S. Senate leaders introduced legislation to end “judge shopping” — a practice that’s made a federal courthouse in Amarillo with a Trump-appointed judge a destination for conservative litigants challenging Biden administration policies.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer introduced the “End Judge Shopping Act” on Wednesday, which would require judges to be randomly assigned to civil cases that could have state- or nation-wide consequences. The bill codifies a similar rule issued by the Judicial Conference of the United States last month to combat judge shopping. The conference is a congressionally created body that oversees the administration of federal courts.

David Godbey, chief judge for the Northern District of Texas, wrote to Schumer earlier this month saying that the judges in his district would not adhere to the Judiciary Conference’s rule. Schumer, in response, issued a statement that “the Senate will consider legislative options that put an end to this misguided practice.”

Texas has several judicial divisions with just one federal judge, meaning that litigants who file suit in that division can usually predict who their case will be assigned to. Conservative plaintiffs suing the Biden administration have flocked to Amarillo, where U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk is the only sitting judge, and has handed down rulings in their favor.

Their cases have touched issues ranging from abortion medication and immigration to LGBTQ worker protections.

A handful of Republican senators protested the Judicial Conference rule, arguing that it’s Congress’ responsibility to determine how cases are assigned — a responsibility Congress delegated to the district courts.

“To state the obvious, Judicial Conference policy is not legislation,” Republican Sens. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, John Cornyn of Texas and Thom Tillis of North Carolina wrote last month in letters to several chief judges.

McConnell, however, also introduced legislation to tackle judge shopping Wednesday. His bill, the “Stop Helping Outcome Preferences (SHOP) Act,” would limit injunctions to the parties in the case or jurisdiction of the judge, rather than having state- or nationwide effect. It would also sanction attorneys whom a disciplinary body of judges determines has engaged in judge shopping.

Schumer introduced his bill with Senate Judiciary Chair Dick Durbin of Illinois and 38 other Democratic senators. McConnell introduced his bill with Tillis and Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Arkansas.

“Former President Trump and Leader McConnell stacked the courts with MAGA judges who are striking down laws, freedoms, and regulations left and right,” Schumer said in a statement. “We can’t let unelected judges thrash our democracy.”

See here and here for some background. Honestly, Sen. Schumer should include some provision to limit national injunctions as well – I know that tactic was used with great effect and for excellent reasons during the Trump administration, but it’s clearly gotten far, far out of hand now, enough to make even the likes of Neil Gorsuch grumpy. And while we’re doing that, let’s impose some ethics rules on SCOTUS and do something to rein in the lawless chaos monsters on the appeals courts; if we can’t expand SCOTUS, let’s expand the Fifth Circuit. The current state of affairs cannot stand.

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