Federal Court With Conservative Judges Refuses To Adhere To New Guidelines On Judge-shopping

Judge David Godbey, the chief judge of the Northern Texas federal district court division, informed Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on March 29 that his court will not adhere to the recently introduced guidelines aimed at restricting the practice of “judge shopping.” This strategy, which conservatives have been employing more frequently, is utilized to invalidate President Joe Biden’s policies.

In a statement on April 1, Senator Schumer expressed his disappointment with the decision of Chief Judge Godbey and the district judges of the Northern District of Texas to permit the practice of judge shopping to persist. He criticized this practice, stating that it allows plaintiffs to select their judge, contrary to the guidelines issued by the Judicial Conference aimed at curbing such behavior.

The federal district courts in Northern Texas have become a hub for conservative activists engaging in judge shopping since Biden assumed office. Judge shopping refers to the strategy employed by plaintiffs who file their lawsuits in specific judicial divisions, knowing that these divisions are presided over by a single judge who is known to be sympathetic to their cause.

One prominent illustration of this phenomenon can be observed in the federal courtroom of Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk in Amarillo, Texas. Conservative groups have frequently lodged lawsuits in this jurisdiction, despite their lack of direct relevance to Northern Texas, as they have sought to halt the implementation of Biden administration initiatives on a national scale. Having previously served as legal counsel for religious right organizations, Kacsmaryk has played an active role in this endeavor by issuing contentious rulings that have resulted in nationwide injunctions against various Biden policies, including those pertaining to immigration and the approval of the abortion drug mifepristone.

The district court, known for its judge shopping, received special attention from both sides, who lobbied heavily to sway the head, Judge Godbey. On March 14th, McConnell wrote to Godbey, urging him to reject the guidelines and maintain the conservatives’ ability to bring their unique pleas to Kacsmaryk’s Amarillo court. Schumer responded on March 22nd, making his own plea to Godbey to adhere to the guidelines.

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Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) has written a letter to Northern Texas District Court Chief Judge David Godbey, urging him to adhere to the recently implemented guidelines on judge-shopping.

In a letter to Schumer on March 29, Godbey supported McConnell’s stance, mentioning that he had consulted with all of his district court judges and made the decision not to implement the guidelines.

According to a statement from Judge Godbey, the district judges of the Northern District of Texas convened on March 27, 2024, to deliberate on case assignment. After careful consideration, the judges collectively decided not to implement any changes to the current case assignment process.

Schumer responded by stating that the Senate would now explore legislative options to put an end to this misguided practice.

Worries regarding the outcome of judge shopping among conservatives extend beyond Democratic Party politicians. The allocation of cases to single-judge districts, such as the one presided over by Kacsmaryk, has resulted in poorly reasoned rulings that even the conservative Supreme Court has consistently overturned.

The high court may be losing patience as well. In a recent case involving the availability of the abortion drug mifepristone, which originated in Kacsmaryk’s courthouse, the justices appeared frustrated by the poorly constructed nature of the case. There was no clear claim of standing for the anti-abortion plaintiffs to sue, yet the case made its way to the Supreme Court. Justice Neil Gorsuch, a conservative appointee by Trump, expressed his dismay at the way the case was presented.

According to Gorsuch, there has been a surge in universal injunctions or vacaturs, which are cases sought by judge-shoppers. He believes that this particular case is a prime example of transforming a small lawsuit into a nationwide legislative assembly on an FDA rule or any other federal government action.

The Supreme Court’s conservatives may have a stronger impact on Godbey, potentially swaying him even if he is currently able to overlook Schumer’s pleas.

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