Senate Democrats Call Out Kacsmaryk, O’Connor In Missive Against Judge Shopping

Judges Reed O'Connor and Matthew Kacsmaryk. TPM Illustration/YouTube.
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Led by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), a group of Senate Democrats railed against right-wing judge shopping and asked for remedies in a Monday-dated letter to the head of the civil rules committee of the Judicial Conference. 

“Based on geography, some plaintiffs are able to guarantee that their claims will be heard before a specific judge whereas others are left to chance, and this inconsistency undermines Americans’ faith in our judicial system,” the lawmakers wrote. 

The letter specifically names Judges Matthew Kacsmaryk and Reed O’Connor, two judges in Texas who get 100 percent of the cases filed in their divisions. Anti-administration litigants have taken advantage of that monopoly, funneling lawsuits to the two who dependably rule in their favor. From there, the cases go to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which is infamously conservative. That leaves the 6-3 right-wing majority Supreme Court as the administration’s only hope for salvation.  

“The State of Texas itself has sued the Biden Administration at least 31 times in Texas federal district courts, but it has not filed even one of those cases in Austin, where the Texas Attorney General’s office is located,” the letter says. “Instead, Texas has always sued in divisions where case-assignment procedures ensure that a particular preferred judge or one of a handful of preferred judges will hear the case.”

Texas has filed seven of those lawsuits in Kacsmaryk’s Amarillo courtroom, the Democrats add. Kacsmaryk is perhaps best known for a ruling that would revoke the Food and Drug Administration’s 20-plus year approval of abortion drug mifepristone. He also tried to keep a hearing in the case secret, the details of which TPM was first to report. O’Connor recently attracted scrutiny when he blocked an Affordable Care Act requirement that health insurers provide free coverage nationwide. 

The letter ends with a series of questions, including asking for recommendations for Congress to consider to alleviate the problem. 

Right-wing judge shopping has been increasingly on the radar of Democratic lawmakers, as the same pipeline, beginning with a handful of conservative judges, continually produces major decisions they oppose on everything from abortion to agency regulations.

Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) introduced a bill to reduce judge shopping earlier this year, though it hasn’t gained much traction and has virtually no chance of passage with a Republican House.

Read the letter here:

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