On Friday, a federal court denied the Justice Department’s request to object to alleged “judge-shopping” in a case brought by Texas and other Republican states against an immigration policy of the Biden administration. The US District Judge Drew Tipton turned down the DOJ’s request to transfer the case to a different court.
The judge said that he was not persuaded that Texas’ decision to file the case in his division—the Southern District of Texas, Victoria division, where Tipton is assigned to every civil case submitted there—was causing the general public to perceive unfairness.
The Conservative Political Action Conference
At the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on July 11, 2021, in Dallas, Texas, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton gives a speech.
The DOJ escalates its accusations that Texas is engaging in “judge-shopping” in cases involving Biden Tipton, a former president Donald Trump appointee. The DOJ cited remarks made by a DOJ attorney during a hearing about the request last month, in which the attorney confirmed that he believed the judge would be impartial.
“In light of the Federal Defendants’ repeated and genuine expressions of confidence in the impartiality and fairness of this Court, it is difficult to accept their argument that ‘public perception’ – if such a concept could be beheld singularly – is meaningfully different than the Defendants,” Tipton said in Friday’s opinion, which called the Biden administration’s public perception claims “speculation.”
He wrote: The Court does not believe it is appropriate to transfer a matter in the right venue due to a speculative public perception of prejudice that disagrees with the assertions of the Federal Defendants.
The judge continued, “transferring the matter because there is the public worry that a single judge division is biased may validate such concern.”
WKBT News 8 tweeted that Court rejects DOJ bid to transfer Texas immigration lawsuit because of alleged ‘judge shopping.’ You can take a look below:
Court rejects DOJ bid to transfer Texas immigration lawsuit because of alleged ‘judge shopping’ https://t.co/ovrawFXK4H
— WKBT News 8 (@news8news) March 11, 2023
At least seven Texas lawsuits against the Biden administration have been filed in the Victoria Division, according to the Justice Department’s move to transfer the case, virtually ensuring that Tipton will hear the claims.
Texas has a tendency of funneling its lawsuits against the Biden administration into divisions where most or all cases are assigned to an individual judge. In filings, the DOJ argued that Texas can “circumvent the random assignment system by never filing in Divisions where they have a non-trivial chance of not knowing what judge they are likely to be assigned.”
Tipton did not weigh in directly on Texas’ broader pattern of where it files cases. Tipton said there was a limited 5th Circuit case law on when a patient should be transferred because of judge-shopping concerns. After quoting one such point, he wrote that it is “no well-kept secret that litigation involves strategy.”
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The Justice Department made similar requests to Judge James Wesley Hendrix and Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk in cases filed in their courthouses challenging, respectively, Biden regulations for investors and the annual spending bill the president signed last year.