WASHINGTON, DC — Despite mounting criticism of the right-tilted U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas complicity in industry judge shopping schemes, today a majority of judges on the court made matters far worse by approving “a rule that would stay for 21 days any decisions to transfer civil cases to courts outside of the jurisdiction of the Northern District of Texas.” Government watchdog Accountable.US called the rule a major catalyst for Congress to act on judicial reform.  

The new rule comes on the eve of the expiration on the Fifth Circuit’s order to stay a decision for a second time by a Trump-appointed federal judge to transfer the U.S. Chamber’s lawsuit against the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s credit card late fee rule capping such fees at $8 to a Washington D.C. federal court where it belongs. Trump-appointed Judge Mark Pittman had transferred the case to D.C. after criticizing the U.S. Chamber for treating legal venues as a “continental breakfast,” where they “pick and choose on a Plaintiffs’ whim where and how a lawsuit is filed.” 

Today’s announcement underscores why we need enforceable judicial ethics reforms. Blocking judges from transferring cases to appropriate venues is the latest power grab by a court resistant to ethical standards. Big corporations and far-right legal groups are exploiting judge shopping to get favorable rulings that threaten to roll back rights for everyday Americans. Northern District of Texas judges just put up a big sign telling them to ‘Sue Here.’ The need for judicial reform in Congress has never been more dire or urgent.”

Accountable.US president Caroline Ciccone

BACKGROUND: What You Need to Know About the History of the Fifth Circuit’s Swampy Ties to the U.S. Chamber and Other 5th Circuit Conflicts of Interest: 

  • JUDGE SHOPPING: The U.S. Chamber predictably sued the Biden administration in Texas federal court to ensure it fell under the jurisdiction of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals where 19 out of the 26 judges were appointed by Republicans, including 6 by Donald Trump. An Accountable.US analysis found that since Donald Trump took office in January 2017, roughly 63% of the U.S. Chamber’s lawsuits challenging federal regulations were filed within district courts under the Fifth Circuit’s jurisdiction. 

Another recent Accountable.US report, released in the wake of the Supreme Court’s unanimous decision rejecting the judge-shopped mifepristone challenge, details the key judge-shopped cases originating in Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk’s courtroom in Northern Texas.  

  • CONFLICTS OF INTEREST: Trump-appointed 5th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Don Willett decided not to recuse himself in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s lawsuit against the CFPB’s credit card late fee rule even though Politico reported Willett’s most recent financial disclosure report lists up to tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of shares in Citigroup, a bank greatly impacted by the CFPB’s action capping credit card late fees and that is also member of the trade groups behind the lawsuit including the U.S. Chamber, American Bankers Association and Consumer Bankers Association. In addition, an Accountable.US review found Fifth Circuit judges have collectively reported up to $745,000 in investments in credit card or credit issuing companies in their most recently available public financial disclosures. 
  • THE SWAMP: An Accountable.US report found the U.S. Chamber heavily funds the Federalist Society—which has paid thousands of dollars in travel expenses for Fifth Circuit judges—donating between $800k to nearly $1.2M since 2008. Several attorneys at the U.S. Chamber Litigation Center are contributors to the Federalist Society. The Chamber has also frequently partnered with the law firm Wiley Rein LLP, self-described as DC’s “secret firm” where several of the firm’s partners were also law clerks for numerous Fifth Circuit judges. In addition, several of the U.S. Chamber’s own personnel, and firms the group works with to protect corporations, have served as law clerks for several current Fifth Circuit judges on the court. 
  • U.S. CHAMBER REPRESENTS BIG BANK CEOs, NOT SMALL BIZ: Among the U.S. Chamber’s members are major credit card issuers JPMorgan, American Express, Citi, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo which collectively charged consumers billions in credit card late fees and other service charges in 2023 alone, a recent Accountable.US analysis found. 
  • A BASELESS CASE: An Accountable.US analysis dispelled top myths employed by the credit card industry to excuse hidden and excessive late fees – including claims that lowering these junk fees will somehow have adverse effects on borrowers and that high credit card fees are somehow beneficial to consumers. Another Accountable.US analysis of recent corporate earnings and legal settlements debunked dubious claims from big bank CEOs that claim they cannot maintain profits without high-cost junk fees.


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