O C F I T B L O G Legal Breaking: Northern District of Texas Issues Nationwide Inunction Against Judicial Conference “Guidance” Document.

Breaking: Northern District of Texas Issues Nationwide Inunction Against Judicial Conference “Guidance” Document.

Breaking: Northern District of Texas Issues Nationwide Inunction Against Judicial Conference “Guidance” Document. post thumbnail image

The headline is an April Fool’s joke, but the subheadline is 100% accurate.

On Friday, Chief Judge David Godbey of the Northern District of Texas informed Senator Schumer that his court would not adopt the Judicial Conference’s “guidance.”

The district judges of the Northern District of Texas met on March 27, 2024, and discussed case assignment. The consensus was not to make any change to our case assignment process at this time.

Ten days ago I wrote the issue was “all-but-dead.” Now the issue is dead dead. (My initial proposed headline was, to paraphrase the classic New York Daily News coverNDTX to Judicial Conference: Drop Dead).

I think every member of the Judicial Conference needs to reflect on three important items.

First, they were responding to pure political pressure and anecdotal evidence rather than any actual systematic study of how different types of relief were sought in different courts. Judge Godbey’s letter noted that the federal courts do not track the “type of remedy” sought in case filed in NDTX. To be sure, the Judicial Conference proposed their policy based on zero actual empirical research.

Second, this issue was viewed as so uncontroversial that it was placed on the no-discussion “consent calendar.” How could these judges–in particular the Chief Judge of the Fifth Circuit–so misjudges this issue. This blowback should have been entirely forseeable.

Third, the Conference had the misguided belief that this rule could be mandated as a matter of statutory authority, but then had to walk the issue back after “some scholars” called them out. If any agency arbitrarily switched their reasoning like this, it would be set aside. This passage from DHS v. Regents of the University of California comes to mind:

Justice Holmes famously wrote that “[m]en must turn square corners when they deal with the Government.” Rock Island, A. & L. R. Co. v. United States, 254 U.S. 141, 143, 41 S.Ct. 55, 65 L.Ed. 188 (1920). But it is also true, particularly when so much is at stake, that “the Government should turn square corners in dealing with the people.” St. Regis Paper Co. v. United States, 368 U.S. 208, 229, 82 S.Ct. 289, 7 L.Ed.2d 240 (1961) (Black, J., dissenting). The basic rule here is clear: An agency must defend its actions based on the reasons it gave when it acted. This is not the case for cutting corners to allow DHS to rely upon reasons absent from its original decision.

Et tu John Roberts?

Here are links to the various posts that I regrettably had to write in the span of four days:

  1. The Judicial Conference Legislates From The Shadow Docket

  2. The Judicial Conference’s New “Policy” Demonstrates Why Judges Should Not Make Policy

  3. Senators McConnell, Cornyn, and Tillis Send Letters To Chief Judges About Judicial Conference “Policy”

  4. How Many Judges Sit In Single Judge Divisions?

  5. Where does the Judicial Conference Get the Authority To Mandate Case Assignments?

  6. The Text Of The Policy Approved By The Judicial Conference

  7. A Comment On The Judicial Conference’s Policy From A Fifth Circuit Practitioner

  8. A Numbers Game: Who Would The Judicial Conference’s New Policy Help And Who Would It Hurt?

  9. The Priorities of the Judicial Conference of the United States

I am working on an article about how to actually reform the issue of forum selection and nationwide relief. The working title: Make Three-Judge Panels Great Again. And if the Justices really are unhappy with how the lower courts are behaving, the follow-up article will be titled Make Circuit Riding Again.

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