Schumer demands that the Texas judge make changes to prevent «forum purchases»

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WASHINGTON — Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., is asking a presiding judge in a Texas federal court to make changes to case assignment practices to prevent litigants from «forum buying.» which, according to him, they can handle effectively. choose judges to hear your civil cases.

Current practice has led to «chaotic and flawed rulings on abortion access, LGBTQ+ protections, legal immigration and climate legislation,» Schumer said.

Schumer made the request Thursday in a letter Chief Judge David Godbey of the US District Court for the Northern District of Texas, where a judge recently ordered a suspension of the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) approval of mifepristone, a key medicine for the abortion.

The Senate’s top Democrat argued that the district court’s current practice in assigning cases often results in a single judge hearing cases from their divisions, rather than distributing cases evenly and randomly. He expressed concern that, as a result, plaintiffs who file lawsuits take advantage of that system and can effectively pick judges who might rule in his favor. Schumer urged Godbey to change that given his authority to decide how cases are assigned to judges in his district.

«Although the Northern District has twelve active judges and four other senior judges still hearing cases, its orders state that civil cases filed in many divisions are always assigned to only one judge, or one of a few,» the letter said. .

Cases filed in the Amarillo division, Schumer said, «are always assigned to the judge [Matthew] Kacsmaryk,» a controversial Trump appointee who issued the abortion drug ruling. The Supreme Court last week blocked the decision from taking effect, allowing the abortion pill to remain on the market while litigation continues in the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

«As a result of your recent assignment orders, the plaintiffs in your district can now effectively choose the judge who will hear their cases,» Schumer wrote to Godbey. «Unsurprisingly, litigants have taken advantage of these orders to choose individual district judges deemed particularly sympathetic to their claims.»

The Senate leader said other district courts with many rural divisions «divide civil cases randomly among all their judges, regardless of where the case is filed.» This is the case in his home state of New York, Schumer said. The Northern District of New York, which covers northern and central New York, randomly divides all cases among all of its judges in all divisions.

«Therefore, a litigant in the Northern District of New York cannot choose his judge by filing a lawsuit in Plattsburgh instead of Utica,» he said.

Schumer noted that a federal statute allows each district court to decide how cases are assigned, which provides flexibility. But she cautioned, «if that flexibility continues to allow litigants to handpick their preferred judges and effectively guarantee their preferred outcomes, Congress will consider more prescriptive requirements.»

Schumer did not elaborate on what those potential requirements might amount to in the legislation.

Liz Brown-Kaiser contributed.

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