Federal judiciary puts an end to ‘judge shopping’ for nationwide injunctions in divisions with only one favorable judge

The Judicial Conference of the United States made a significant decision to address the issue of “judge shopping,” where litigants seek favorable one-judge divisions to obtain broad injunctions on important matters. This move aims to curb such practices and promote fairness within the federal court system.

The announcement indicated that concerns about “judge shopping” in patent cases, which have been bipartisan for years, were the initial catalyst for raising awareness about the issue. However, further investigation by the Court Administration and Case Management Committee revealed that this kind of legal manipulation was impacting federal civil courts in a wider range of cases, including bankruptcy proceedings.

The Judicial Conference aims to stop litigants from selecting judges they think will readily approve declaratory judgments or any type of injunctive relief, regardless of the extent. This means that case assignments for such matters must genuinely be randomly chosen from a group of judges within a district. Consequently, there will likely be fewer instances of cases reaching the U.S. Supreme Court only to be overturned later on.

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In Texas, there is an issue with the assignment of judges on district courts. Although there are multiple judges on a district court, there are also divisions within these districts where only one judge presides. This creates a situation where the assignment of judges, which should be random, becomes a certainty in certain cases.

In March of last year, the Biden administration’s Department of Justice accused Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) of engaging in “judge shopping” by filing a lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, specifically in the Victoria Division. This division is presided over by U.S. District Judge Drew Tipton, who was appointed by Donald Trump. Tipton had previously faced criticism for issuing a nationwide injunction that was deemed “unprecedented and outrageous,” which was later overturned by the Supreme Court.

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Judge recuses himself from Disney case, calling it “nothing more than rank judge-shopping”

In an interesting turn of events, a judge has decided to step aside from a Disney case, citing “nothing more than rank judge-shopping.” The judge’s decision raises questions about the fairness and integrity of the judicial process.

The judge’s recusal comes as a surprise to many, as the Disney case has been highly publicized and has garnered significant attention. It appears that the judge believes there may be ulterior motives at play, with parties involved in the case seeking a more favorable outcome by shopping for a judge who may be more sympathetic to their cause.

This move by the judge highlights the importance of maintaining transparency and impartiality within the judicial system. It is crucial for judges to make decisions based on the facts and the law, without any external pressures or influences. By stepping aside from the Disney case, the judge is ensuring that the integrity of the judicial process remains intact.

The decision also serves as a reminder that judge-shopping is not only unethical but can also undermine public confidence in the legal system. When parties engage in judge-shopping, it creates the perception that justice can be manipulated, leading to doubts about the fairness of the outcome.

It will be interesting to see how this development affects the Disney case moving forward. Will the parties involved now have to adjust their strategy and arguments based on a new judge? And more importantly, what will this decision mean for the overall perception of the judicial system?

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Regardless of the outcome, this incident serves as a wake-up call for the legal community to uphold the principles of fairness and integrity in the pursuit of justice. The decision by the judge to step aside from the Disney case should be a reminder that judge-shopping has no place in our legal system and that the pursuit of justice must be based on the merits of the case, rather than personal preferences or biases.

The court denied the DOJ’s attempt to transfer the case from Tipton’s court. However, the request stated that Paxton’s office acknowledged that filing in the Victoria Division was not a mere accident.

“The reason we have filed the case in Victoria, Your Honor, is primarily due to our past experiences with you,” the Attorney General’s office openly revealed during the court proceedings. This explanation was given to justify why the lawsuit was not filed in Houston, other prominent cities, or in the division along the Southern border.”

The Department of Justice (DOJ) addressed the issue of “judge shopping” that the Judicial Conference aimed to tackle. They highlighted that numerous cases against the government were filed in specific divisions where the plaintiffs were aware that the judge would already be predetermined.

That concern is magnified where, as here, Plaintiffs circumvent the random assignment system by never filing in Divisions where they have a non-trivial chance of not knowing what judge they are likely to be assigned. As explained, this is not the first time that Texas has gamed the local rules governing case assignments. In fact, all 28 of the State’s lawsuits against the federal government filed in Texas federal district courts have been filed in just seven Divisions where local rules severely limit the number of judges to whom the cases could be assigned (Victoria, Amarillo, Galveston, Lubbock, Tyler, Fort Worth, Midland), including 18 lawsuits in Divisions where the case would necessarily be assigned to a single, pre-determined judge (Victoria, Amarillo, Galveston, Midland), and no less than seven here in Victoria.

The Biden administration has previously expressed concerns about “judge shopping” in the Amarillo and Lubbock divisions. In these divisions, U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk and U.S. District Judge James Wesley Hendrix preside over the majority of civil cases, including important matters like abortion pill access and a trillion-dollar government funding bill. It’s worth noting that both Judge Kacsmaryk and Judge Hendrix were appointed by former President Trump.

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Ken Paxton’s office had previously dismissed the criticism of “judge shopping” as a “baseless smear.” However, the Judicial Conference has now endorsed an anti-judge shopping policy that will be applicable to civil cases seeking to restrict or compel state or federal actions, including declaratory judgments and injunctive relief. It is worth noting that these are the exact types of cases that Paxton has frequently filed against the Biden administration.

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