Texas federal court rejects policy aimed at curbing ‘judge shopping’

A federal court in Texas that has become a favored destination for conservatives suing to block President Joe Biden’s agenda has decided not to follow a policy adopted by the judiciary’s top policymaking body that aims to curtail the practice of “judge shopping.”Chief U.S. District Judge David Godbey of the Northern District of Texas announced the decision in a Friday letter to Democratic U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who had urged him to implement a new policy that aimed to ensure cases challenging federal or state laws are randomly assigned judges.The policy announced by the U.S. Judicial Conference on March 12 would require a lawsuit challenging federal or state laws to be assigned a judge randomly throughout a federal district rather than stay in the specific, smaller division, or courthouse, where the case was initially filed.SCHUMER-LINKED PACS SPEND MILLIONS TO MEDDLE IN GOP PRIMARIESIf implemented, that policy would disrupt a tactic used by conservative litigants of filing cases in small divisions in Texas’ four federal districts whose one or two judges were appointed by Republican presidents and often rule in their favor on issues like abortion, immigration and gun control.Following blowback from Senate Republicans and some conservative judges, judicial policymakers later clarified that the policy was discretionary, leaving it to each district court to decide how to implement it.In his letter, Godbey, an appointee of Republican former President George W. Bush, said the judges in his district met on Wednesday. “The consensus was not to make any change to our case assignment process at this time,” he said.His letter was first reported by Law360. Schumer’s spokespeople did not respond to a request for comment on Saturday.The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas has 11 active judges and is divided into seven divisions. Most judges are in Dallas, but some smaller divisions like Amarillo, Fort Worth and Lubbock have just one or two active judges.The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments on Tuesday in a case arising from one of these small courts, in which U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk – an appointee of Republican former President Donald Trump in the single-judge division of Amarillo – suspended approval of the abortion pill mifepristone.The Supreme Court has allowed the pill to remain on the market while it considers the appeal. Justices signaled during Tuesday’s arguments they were unlikely to uphold restrictions.
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