How Easy is it to Judge-Shop in the US?

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.

If there are local rules directing where an application is to be made, then how did the Trump team manage to file at a court point about 50 miles away from Mar-a-Lago?

It would be a sad day when a lawyer cannot find a tenous reason to file in a forum of their convenience. :wink:

Each district has their own local rules. I haven’t checked Florida

Same deal in the county where I worked in California. Parties could “kick” any judge for no reason one time, but they had to live with the assigned judge they got if they did that.

And the reassignment process was always a bit murky.

It was.

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.

I’ve never heard of such a thing. :face_with_raised_eyebrow:

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. :wink:

It wasn’t the “kick”. Up here, with judges, you get what you get and you don’t get upset.

Trump filed in the Southern District of Florida (which covers Mar-A-Lago) and the case was randomly assigned to Cannon. Whatever you think of the case, it wasn’t venue shopping.

So you actually thought I would make such a misleading assertion without a basis?

Good to know.

It’s a big District.

But he filed 70 miles from Mar-a-lago. Why? Attempted judge shopping. In this case, successful, but not always.

No, I’m not disbelieving you or critiquing you in any way; sorry if it seemed that way.

I’m just very surprised that such a thing exists. I’ve never heard of it before.

Rules are different all over, that’s sure. Thanks for clarifying. I hope I satisfied your skepticism.

That’s why I started this thread; to find out how it works down south. :slightly_smiling_face:

In a county with a small bench like the one I worked in, it definitely qualified as judge-shopping.

The unpopular judges would sit knitting booties while other judges picked up the slack. CCP §170.6(a) occasionally played hell with our trial assignments.

I only know what I’ve read in the papers, but the case was still assigned randomly, correct? What difference did it make where he filed?

Certain judges are assigned to certain divisions. You’re much more likely to get Judge Cannon if you file in her division.