Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said if a Texas federal district court does not implement reforms preventing so-called “judge shopping,” Congress may intervene, The Hill reported last week.
In an April 27 letter to US District Court Chief Judge David Godbey for the Northern District of Texas, Schumer complained about how plaintiffs are leveraging the district’s single-judge divisions to pick and choose which judge will hear a case.
Schumer conceded that the current federal statute permits district courts to decide how cases are assigned, giving them “flexibility to address individual circumstances in their districts.” However, he warned that if that flexibility is allowing plaintiffs to “hand-pick” judges they believe will “guarantee their preferred outcomes,” then Congress may consider “more prescriptive requirements.”
Judge shopping has long been part of the litigation strategy plaintiffs from both sides of the aisle have used, and Texas is not the only state with single-judge divisions. However, Schumer believes that Texas manages its single-judge divisions in a way that allows plaintiffs to more easily and frequently take advantage of it.
The US District Court for the Northern District of Texas frequently takes up challenges to Biden administration policies, often brought by the state’s Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton.
Accusing Texas of being the “most egregious example” of forum shopping by plaintiffs, Schumer noted that of the 29 lawsuits brought against the Biden administration in Texas federal district courts, not one of them was filed in the district court in liberal Austin, despite Attorney General Paxton’s office being located there.
Schumer argued that Texas has “always sued” the administration in divisions that have “case-assignment procedures” that would ensure a preferred judge or judges would hear the case.
In three cases filed in Texas, the Biden administration has accused the plaintiffs of judge shopping and filed motions to transfer the cases to another federal district court. However, those efforts have thus far failed.