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Majority Leader Schumer Floor Remarks On His New Letters To The Judicial Conference And The Chief Judge Of The Northern District Of Texas Calling for The Immediate Adoption Of Recently Announced Policy Reforms To Limit Judge Shopping

Washington, D.C.   Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) today spoke on the Senate floor on new letters sent to the Judicial Conference and the Chief Judge of the Northern District of Texas urging the adoption of the Judicial Conference’s recently announced commonsense policy reforms limiting judge shopping. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:

Last week, I was very pleased that the Judicial Conference announced commonsense policy reforms limiting the practice of judge shopping, by having civil cases with statewide or nationwide implications assigned to judges at random. Unfortunately not everyone was pleased, namely those on the right who have made judge shopping their specialty.

So today, I am sending a follow up letter to the Judicial Conference encouraging them to defend their policy as it is implemented across the country.

I am also writing the Chief Judge of the Northern District of Texas, where judge shopping has been rampant, urging him to apply the reforms of the Judicial Conference as quickly as possible.

When I wrote to the Chief Judge roughly a year ago about judge shopping, he said fixing the problem through random assignments presented logistical challenges.

So in my letter today I will ask the judge to please explain—how many civil cases with statewide or national injunctions does his jurisdiction handle? How does the district create rules for case assignment? How will they implement the Judicial Conference’s rules to ensure public trust?

The answers to these questions would greatly inform us in the Senate as we think about ways to strengthen the judiciary.

And I must say, over the past week or so, I’ve been troubled to hear some of my colleagues on the other side attack the Judicial Conference simply for doing its job, which Congress authorized it to do over a century ago.

My Republican colleagues forget, or ignore, that even their side has acknowledged in the past that not only is judge shopping a problem, but that the Judicial Conference itself has a role to play to address it.

But now, some Republicans are howling at the moon over this announcement. My friend, the Republican Leader, for one, led his colleagues in writing a number of chief judges urging them to basically ignore the Judicial Conference.

Let me say this: judge shopping as it is practiced here in Texas distorts the entire judicial system. There is only one judge sitting in one district. Hard-right plaintiffs from across the country know they can bring their cases and get it before a judge who has views that are way over.

It jaundices the fairness of the legal system when you know there's one judge sitting and he or she has a particular philosophy and you have to get that judge when you file a case. Again, it attracts hard-right plaintiffs who are so unrepresentative of America like bees to honey, and they all flock to those one or two or three judicial districts where there is one judge or a minimal number of judges sitting.

My Republican colleagues refused to actually explain why judge shopping is remotely defensible, because it so distorts the system so distorts the system and casts a cloud of unfairness over our whole judicial system, like the system is sort of rigged because you know you can get this judge and you know what the outcome will be. The mifepristone is the most glaring immediate example. Of course my Republican colleagues don't explain why, by the way, because of course they can’t say the quiet part out loud: judge shopping is a key part of the hard right toolkit, something they built up over the years.

Just take the example of the Amarillo Division of the Northern District of Texas, where a single district judge has become the darling of extremist litigants for his outlandishly fringe opinions on everything from birth control, to affordable health care, to LGBTQ discrimination.

Republicans might not want to openly say it, at least those who are opposed here but nobody is being fooled here: conservatives go to this one judge because they know he’s on their side ideologically. What an abuse of the functioning of our federal courts.


So yes: the Judicial Conference was right to issue reforms to limit judge shopping.

Neither philosophy should be able to cherry pick judges of their choice. Random assignment is the way it works for nearly every court in the country.  

I am always ready to work with Senators from either party to consider all commonsense ways to improve how our courts are administered. I wholeheartedly agree that Congress should take its role of judicial oversight seriously – particularly at a time when activist judges committed to special interests are eroding the rule of law. Congress must provide a check on the judiciary, and that's what the founding fathers intended for in legislation for decades even centuries also points out

But in this instance, it is troubling that Republicans can’t seem to admit the obvious: abuses like the ones we see coming out of the Northern District of Texas should come to an end.