Judicial Conference Takes Action to Eliminate Judge Shopping and Ensure Fairness in the Courtroom

Washington, D.C. – The Judicial Conference of the United States has taken a significant step towards creating a fair and impartial justice system. In an effort to combat judge shopping and promote random case assignment, the governing body of federal courts has released guidelines for district courts to follow. This move aims to address the appearance of unfairness and restore public trust in the judicial process.

Judge shopping refers to the practice of selecting a judge who is perceived to be sympathetic to a particular case. This has raised concerns about the integrity of the courts and opened the door for inappropriate conduct. The Judicial Conference’s new guidance recommends implementing random case assignment and formalizing case assignment practices with public rules and orders to enhance transparency.

Currently, the assignment of cases in the United States’ 94 federal district courts is often based on the location of the case filing. However, this system has been exploited by sophisticated plaintiffs who strategically choose jurisdictions where a single judge oversees all cases. This allows them to manipulate the outcome in their favor. Recent instances in the District Court for the Western District of Texas’s Waco Division, where one judge presided over a significant portion of patent cases filed nationwide, have highlighted the need for reform.

Recognizing the gravity of the situation, Chief Justice John Roberts emphasized the issue of forum shopping in the 2021 Year-End Report on the Federal Judiciary. The Chief Judge of the Western District of Texas also issued an order mandating random distribution of patent cases in Waco. These developments have prompted the Judicial Conference to include patent cases in their case assignment recommendations. This ensures that measures for randomization will be implemented uniformly across districts, preventing imbalances like those seen in Waco.

The Conference suggests various options for case assignment practices, such as district-wide assignment of all cases, assignment based on case type and other criteria, and shared assignments in single-judge districts. By adopting these recommendations, district courts can deter judge shopping and promote impartiality in proceedings.

Judge Robert J. Conrad, Jr., the Conference’s secretary, believes that randomizing case assignment will prevent the bias associated with judge shopping, strengthen public confidence in the federal Judiciary, and foster impartiality. With concerns about skewed patent litigation venues and the need to rebalance the judicial system, it is crucial for district courts to transparently implement the new guidelines. Random case assignments have the potential to curtail the common practice of judge shopping and restore fairness to the courts.

In conclusion, the Judicial Conference of the United States has taken a significant step towards addressing judge shopping and promoting fairness in the justice system. By issuing guidelines for random case assignment, the Conference aims to combat imbalances, discourage inappropriate conduct, and restore public trust in the courts. The widespread adoption of these recommendations by district courts will be crucial in achieving a more impartial and just judicial process.