Professor Kat Macfarlane Responds to Competing Judge Shopping Bills

Professor Kat Macfarlane, an expert on local Federal court rules, recently spoke with Law360 for the article “Dueling Bills Highlight Partisan Divide Over ‘Judge Shopping’.” At issue are competing Senate bills from both parties that aim to limit ‘judge shopping.’

Macfarlane says what’s missing from the bills are any attempts to limit unfair judge assignments in criminal or non-political cases. Regarding Senator Chuck Schumer’s, D-N.Y., bill, she fears that “unrepresented, incarcerated, powerless parties” are not part of the considerations.

“There are so many examples of other cases in which parties get their cases assigned directly, there are all kinds of local rules that allow judges to pull what they call related cases onto their docket, senior judges and visiting judges get to select the type and number of cases they hear,” Macfarlane said. Another example is that, in certain district courts, when someone wants to challenge their federal conviction through a habeas petition, “there are rules that force the filing of our federal habeas petition to be directly assigned to the same judge that sentenced you.”