The reason I’m asking is the Trump legal team’s successful ploy of getting a particularly favourable judge, Judge Cannon, sitting on their application, by filing their materials in her sub-district (if I’ve understood correctly?)
Is that common? easy to do? is there a difference between federal and state courts in this regard?
In the Western District of Washington (where I’m most familiar) there are two courthouses, one in Seattle and one in Tacoma. You have to file in the division specified by where the action arose or where the defendant resides. It’s Local Civil Rule 3(e) if you want to look it up. There are several judges in each division, but the Seattle ones were generally considered better for plaintiffs than the Tacoma ones. In most cases, you wouldn’t have discretion about where to file. You couldn’t do what Trump did, although I guess you could say that the U.S. Government is present in every division and can be sued anywhere.
In State court, there is sometimes a choice about which country to file in (but not always). We take that into consideration. But we don’t do it on the basis of judge shopping, as there is no way to know which judge you’ll be assigned to in any particular county. We do it based on the jury pool. The other complicating factor for someone trying to judge shop is that the larger counties re-assign judges from time to time, moving between civil and criminal dockets. So, you could have a judge you like for 6 months and then get transferred. In Federal Court it occasionally happens, but not nearly as common. (although I had a case transferred three times in Federal Court last year–no reason given)
In our state court (again, Washington) each party has the right to remove one judge without reason, so I guess that’s a form of judge shopping. Federal Court has no similar rule.
During my time, there were a couple judges who were unpopular due to their lack of experience in criminal law. The prosecutors and defense attorneys would conspire work together to each kick a judge if the assignments went to one or both of the unpopular judges, in the hope they would be assigned to a courtroom with a more experienced criminal judge.
I don’t blame them for that, but it presented some problems for our bench as a whole: How do inexperienced judges doing criminal trials gain experience if no one will let them try their cases?
I’m sure it was entirely arbitrary but a few times, attorneys doing this were assigned to a visiting judge who was known to fall asleep during long stretches of proceedings. It slowed down the number of kicks.
California Code of Civil Procedure Section 170.6 allows a party who timely files an “affidavit of prejudice” to disqualify a judge without any showing of cause. The affidavit of prejudice is not contestable and the disqualification of the judge is automatic. (CCP §170.6(a))
However, only one such peremptory challenge is allowed per side. (CCP § 170.6(a)(3)) Note a peremptory challenge under CCP §170.6 is not the same as a motion to disqualify a judge by a party or an attorney, i.e., a challenge for cause which is discussed in the Code at CCP §170.1.
Unless you were just funnin’ with me, taking the “kick” part literally.