Federal Judiciary Moves To Limit One Of Activists’ Favorite Litigation Strategies

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The federal judiciary’s policymaking body announced Tuesday it would limit the practice of “judge-shopping,” where plaintiffs file cases in districts with a judge perceived as friendly, through strengthening the policy for random case assignments.

The Judicial Conference of the United States issued a policy addressing any civil lawsuit that seeks to “bar or mandate state or federal actions,” instructing such cases to be randomly assigned among the district’s judges. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals Chief Judge and chair of the Judicial Conference’s executive committee Jeff Sutton said the policy was adopted in response to a “plethora of national and statewide injunctions,” according to The Associated Press.

The policy would prevent cases from staying with judges in the smaller geographic region where they are filed, and would assign them at random to a judge across the district, according to Politico.

“The random case-assignment policy deters judge-shopping and the assignment of cases based on the perceived merits or abilities of a particular judge,” Judge Robert J. Conrad, Jr., secretary of the Conference, said in a statement. “It promotes the impartiality of proceedings and bolsters public confidence in the federal Judiciary.”

Some Democrats called for curbing judge-shopping last May after U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk in Amarillo, Texas, issued a ruling finding that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) needed to reverse its approval for the chemical abortion pill. The case is now before the Supreme Court. (RELATED: Supreme Court To Weigh Major Case On Abortion Pill Approval)

Chief Justice John Roberts also addressed the topic in relation to its use in patent cases in his 2021 Year-End Report.

“Senators from both sides of the aisle have expressed concern that case assignment procedures allowing the party filing a case to select a division of a district court might, in effect, enable the plaintiff to select a particular judge to hear a case,” Roberts wrote.

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