Judge Shopping: The Unchecked and Unusual Phenomenon

As many of you know, the United States is in the midst of a total and complete meltdown. With political, social, and economic movements and issues causing conflict left and right, many are desperate to find a way to one-up their opponents and prove that they are the genuinely right side. The Texas government has found a loophole allowing them to ensure meeting their agendas and pass laws favorable to them. This article will cover how the Texas Court System works, how the Texas government exploits this power and possible solutions.

Texas has four Federal District Courts at the bottom level of the Federal Court System. Many judges are selected to hear cases and conduct trials randomly within these courts. This randomness is significant to ensure that cases are viewed through an unbiased and neutral lens. The four districts in Texas (Northern, Eastern, Western, and Southern) are divided into smaller, more manageable divisions. These divisions each have their judges, and the problem arises when there are only 1-2 active judges in these divisions, accompanied by lax laws about which division you can file your case in allowing people to pick the judge for their case. 

In Texas, there are no specific laws prohibiting or mandating that a person or entity filing a case/lawsuit must stay in a specific division or district, meaning that any person or entity can reside or be stationed in one place in Texas but file a lawsuit in a completely different area to gain the favoring of the judge in that specific area. Many divisions in Texas have only one judge, including Drew Tipton (Victoria Division), Jeffrey Brown (Galveston Division), Matthew Kacsmaryk (Amarillo Division), and Reed O’Connor (Wichita Falls Division), and this filing in pursuit of these sole judges has become known as “judge shopping” and is a phenomenon only seen in a state like Texas. This will become important when we discuss how the Texas government uses this to its advantage.

Instead of filing lawsuits against the United States government in Washington D.C. or another place that would produce a more fair trial, the Texas government has decided to do so in small cities across Texas. In one example, Texas sued the US government over its immigration policy not in a more reasonable courtroom but within Victoria because they knew Drew Tipton, a conservative judge, would side with the conservative Texas government and allow these cases to be pushed to the 5th Circuit Court, which is also, unsurprisingly, conservative. Now, the Supreme Court is historically known for having thousands of pending cases that keep stacking up year after year, and Texas has used this to its advantage. As these cases have not formally been heard by the Supreme Court, the original judge’s (in this case, Drew Tipton) ruling is in effect. Going back to the immigration lawsuit, Tipton’s ruling has remained since the Supreme Court has not officially ruled on it. This is a huge problem, so let us detail some possible solutions.

1. The District Courts could change how cases are heard and filed.

These courts could create new laws prohibiting people/entities from other districts from filing in their divisions. This would force people/entities to file cases specifically in their divisions, completely eradicating judge shopping and preventing the Texas government from cherry-picking which judge they believe would rule in their favor.

2. The District Courts could also change the number of active judges in each division.

This solution would further prevent judge shopping and decrease the powers of the Texas government.

3. The Supreme Court could pass new regulations that prevent lower courts from judge shopping.

Since the district courts are federal courts, the Supreme Court’s rulings apply to them. This would mean that if the Supreme Court voted yes to a bill that prevented judge shopping from occurring, the district courts would be forced to change their processes, which would further decrease the Texas government’s power.

4. Congress could regulate how cases are distributed in lower courts.

This is the final solution I have, and I believe it is the best way to reduce the power of Texas. This solution would prevent the ability of regular citizens and the Texas government to decide where their cases will be heard. And if implemented, there is already a bill in Congress that would redirect every case attempting to block federal policies to be tried in Washington D.C., showing that such a solution can be used.

As of now, the current power of Texas is outrageous and needs to be stopped. If the state continues to have seemingly unlimited power, the neutrality and basis on which our court system was built will be completely and irrevocably destroyed.

Works Cited

Freelander, Adam. “Why Texas Judges Have so Much Power Right Now.” Vox, 11 May 2023, www.vox.com/2023/5/11/23719914/texas-judge-shopping-national-policy. Accessed 15 June 2023.

Vladeck, Steve. “18. The Growing Abuse of Single-Judge Divisions.” 18. The Growing Abuse of Single-Judge Divisions, One First, 13 Mar. 2023, stevevladeck.substack.com/p/18-shopping-for-judges. Accessed 15 June 2023.

“Why Texas Judges Have so Much Power Right Now.” YouTube, 11 May 2023, www.youtube.com/watch?v=eQ5MyY3nLS8. Accessed 15 June 2023.