Schumer Targets Conservative 'Judge Shopping' As 'A Complete Perversion'
Some observers were not shocked or surprised when Texas federal court Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk ruled in April that the FDA had improperly approved the abortion drug Mifepristone, even though the approval was more than 20 years ago and the drug has a long, safe track record.
The reason is highlighted in a letter Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer released Tuesday -- the plaintiffs in the case knew that Kacsmaryk used to be a lawyer for the Christian legal group First Liberty Institute. And they knew that unlike in most other federal court jurisdictions around the country, he was the only judge who would be available in his division of the Northern District of Texas. Reuters took a close look at the conservative groups who have trekked to Amarillo to file their cases, hoping for an ideologically sympathetic ear.
Schumer and 18 other Democratic senators wrote to the Judicial Conference, which sets policy for federal courts, asking for intervention. The majority Leader had already asked the chief judge for the Northern District of Texas, David Godbey, in April to reform the system so plaintiffs can't pick their judges. He refused.
Now Schumer and the others are asking the chair of the the conference's Advisory Committee on Civil Rights, Robin Rosenberg, to consider reforms that would prevent cases from automatically going to a sole judge in one division of a court district.
The letter notes that Northern District of New York is similar to Texas's Northern District -- but it defeats judge shopping.
"The Northern District of New York is—like the Northern District of Texas—a geographically large district split into many divisions, " the letter says. "But the Northern District of New York assigns all of its judges to all of its divisions and randomly divides all cases between all of them, regardless of where the cases are filed."
Schumer argues that letting plaintiffs pick judges undermines confidence in the justice and fairness of federal courts. "Americans’ faith in the judicial system is at an all-time low following the hijacking of our court system by the MAGA right,” Schumer said in a statement accompanying the release of the letter. “It is a complete perversion of the intent of the judiciary to leave open this glaring loophole that allows plaintiffs to effectively choose their judges."
He also said that Congress may have to consider legislation, though with Republican control of the House, and slim Democratic majority in the Senate, measures that might take away a fruitful legal avenue for conservatives likely would not advance.
The full letter -- which is also signed by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand -- is here.