CNN- A Democratic lawmaker is putting forward the latest effort to tackle so-called judge-shopping – a tactic recently used by foes of the Biden administration to obtain nationwide injunctions on federal policies by filing legal challenges in single-judge courthouses, essentially allowing them to pick who hears their case.
House Rep. Mikie Sherrill of New Jersey on Tuesday rolled out a bill that would require any civil lawsuit seeking a court order that would apply nationwide be filed in a judicial district where there are two or more active judges assigned to hear cases. It’s the second Democratic legislative proposal in recent weeks to address the trend.
The “forum-shopping” strategy used by litigants – on both the left and the right – to file lawsuits in courtrooms where the case is likely to be assigned to a sympathetic judge is not a new strategy.
But the practice has escalated in the legal battles over President Joe Biden’s agenda as conservatives have focused on judicial divisions – several of them in Texas – where just one judge hears all or most of the cases filed there.
The lawsuit brought by anti-abortion doctors to challenge the federal government’s approval of medication abortion drugs is perhaps the most prominent recent example.
One of the groups behind the case, weeks before their lawsuit was filed, incorporated in Amarillo, Texas, where US District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk hears all of the lawsuits filed in that federal court. Kacsmaryk agreed with the plaintiffs and sought to cut off nationwide access to the abortion drug, only to have his order paused by the Supreme Court.
The challengers’ lawyer has denied to CNN that they engaged in judge-shopping. Still, the case prompted Sherrill to draft the judge-shopping legislation.
“You read his opinion and, and it’s not a very well informed one,” Sherrill told CNN. “So to think that conservatives could drive cases to this one judge, and this one extremist court, doesn’t feel like justice.”
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has also apparently embraced the tactic. His office – sometimes joined by Republican attorneys general from other states – has filed at least a half dozen lawsuits in the Amarillo division, which is in a far-flung area of northern Texas far from the state’s capital. Paxton’s office also has funneled much of its litigation against the Biden administration through the Victoria, Texas, division, where Judge Drew Tipton is all but guaranteed to hear the civil cases brought there.