A new deep dive from Bloomberg Law today details Northern Texas as the judge shopping hotbed for conservative groups, from America First Legal Foundation to the America First Policy Institute. While judge shopping isn’t new, conservative groups are taking the tactic even further by targeting single-judge divisions — often based on flimsy or contrived ties to the area — that enable plaintiffs to choose not just a friendly forum, but to effectively cherry pick the exact judge most likely to deliver a favorable outcome.

This tried and tested strategy has been used to advance extreme special interests and fringe legal theories all the way to the Supreme Court, such as the pending legal challenge to the abortion pill, originally shopped to Amarillo-based Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk. Kacsmaryk has ruled against the Biden administration not just on abortion, but on LGBTQ rights and immigration as well — and he’s the only federal judge tasked with handling civil cases in Amarillo.

It’s a go-to tactic that conservative groups have been using more and more frequently now and I think we’re seeing the implications of that just become more real ever so much in the past few months and years.”

Accountable.US executive director Tony Carrk

An Accountable.US analysis details dozens of instances of brazen judge shopping by right-wing special interests and Republican-led states in recent years in the Northern District of Texas, regardless of the fact that many plaintiffs had only tenuous connections to the area. Many of these cases continue to move through the courts — and many with national implications, including enabling discrimination against LGBTQ patients, halting ghost gun regulations, and threatening to bankrupt Planned Parenthood nationwide.

Bloomberg Law highlights key right-wing groups abusing the manipulative judge shopping tactic. One such group is the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, a conservative Wisconsin-based organization flocking to Amarillo and Fort Worth to file challenges to the Biden administration. Stephen Miller’s America First Legal Foundation has supported roughly a dozen lawsuits in Northern Texas challenging Biden administration policies — and all but one filed in Fort Worth or Amarillo. The America First Policy Institute seemingly shifted its headquarters from Virginia to Fort Worth, allowing it to file challenges to Biden administration policies — even while the group maintains a Washington mailing address, and lawyers signing the complaints have listed the same out-of-town address.

With no enforcement mechanism for the recent Judicial Conference guidance, many judge shopped cases continue to travel up the Fifth Circuit pipeline — originating in Northern Texas, and moving to the Supreme Court through the conservative Fifth Circuit. One of the latest examples comes from the 5th Circuit of Appeals, whom the US Chamber of Commerce asked to intervene in a case to invalidate the CFPB’s credit card late fee rule. Northern Texas Chief District Judge David Godbey’s refusal to honor the guidance — along with Fifth Circuit Judges James Ho’s and Edith Jones’ loud criticisms — underscore judge shopping as a political strategy on which right-wing special interests and activists heavily rely to manipulate the judiciary for political gain.


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