Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Lawmakers want to ban ‘judge-shopping’ used to cheat instead of fair trials

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Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer introduced the End Judge Shopping Act, 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 to combat judge shopping issued by the Judicial Conference of the United States, a congressionally created body that oversees the administration of federal courts.

David Godbey, chief judge for the Northern District of Texas, wrote to Congress last month saying that the judges in his district would not adhere to the rule so Schumer responded by announcing that “the Senate will consider legislative options that put an end to this misguided practice.”

Judge shopping has made a federal courthouse in Texas with a Trump-appointed judge a destination for conservative litigants challenging Biden administration policies.

Representative Mikie Sherrill, a right-wing Blue Dog Democrat from New Jersey, is taking action to stop extremists from pursuing their ultimate goal of banning abortion nationwide with similar legislation to stop the unfair practice.

Conservative plaintiffs suing the Biden administration have flocked to Amarillo, Texas, where U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, an appointee of disgraced former President Donald Trump, is the only sitting judge, and has handed down rulings in their favor.

Judge-shopping is a known tactic anti-abortion advocates and other arch-conservative radicals use to pick a court that is likely to produce an unfair outcome by filing lawsuits in single-judge divisions where they are all but assured to get a favorable ruling.

This is what took place in the Amarillo division of the Northern District of Texas where Judge Kacsmaryk upset 23 years of FDA approval of Mifepristone, a medication abortion pill used in 54% of all abortions in America. Millions of women used mifepristone over the past 23 years, with a lower rate of complications than such other routine procedures like wisdom teeth removal and colonoscopies.

Kacsmaryk, a former federal prosecutor and lawyer for the conservative First Liberty Institute, was confirmed in 2019 over fierce opposition by Democrats over his record opposing LGBTQ rights. He was among more than 230 judges installed to the federal bench under Trump as part of a movement by the Republican president and Senate conservatives to shift the American judiciary to the right.

As the only district court judge in Amarillo — a city in the Texas panhandle — all cases filed there land in front of him and since taking the bench, Kacsmaryk has ruled against the Biden administration on issues ranging from immigration and LGBT protections.

“Why are all these cases being brought in Amarillo if the litigants who are bringing them are so confident in the strength of their claims? It’s not because Amarillo is convenient to get to,” said University of Texas law professor Stephen Vladeck. “I think it ought to alarm the judges themselves, that litigants are so transparently and shamelessly funneling cases to their courtroom.”

“Anti-abortion extremists want to roll back women’s access to basic reproductive health and are completely out of touch with the majority of Americans. They are now using court loopholes to attack the rights and freedoms of women across the country – despite their original position that this was a states’ rights issue,” said Sherrill. “My bill prevents shopping for judges and predetermining the outcome of a case that would result in a decision that impacts people across the country.”

“In states like New Jersey, we have enacted necessary abortion protection laws but cases like U.S. Food and Drug Administration v. Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine threaten our freedoms,” said Sherrill. “I will continue to be a proactive fighter for women’s health and autonomy in Congress.”

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