A federal judge on Friday rejected a Justice Department proposal to counter an alleged “judge buying” in a case brought by Texas and other Republican states against the Biden administration’s immigration policies.
US District Judge Drew Tipton request denied from the Department of Justice that he had referred the suit to a court other than his own.
The judge said he was not convinced that Texas’s decision to file a case with its subdivision – the Texas South District of Victoria, where Tipton is assigned to every civil suit filed there – was creating a public perception of unfairness.
Tipton, appointed by former President Donald Trump, pointed to comments made by a Justice Department lawyer during a hearing last month about the request. in which the lawyer confirmed that, in his opinion, the judge will be impartial in this case.
“In light of the Federal Defendants’ repeated and candid expressions of confidence in the impartiality and fairness of this court, it is difficult to accept their argument that ‘public perception’ – if such a concept can be considered separately – differs materially from Defendants, ” Tipton said in Friday’s opinion, in which the Biden administration’s claims of public perception were labeled “speculation”.
“The Court does not consider it appropriate to transfer a case that is in its proper place due to a speculative public perception of bias that contradicts the federal defendants’ own statements,” he wrote.
The judge went on to state that “the referral of the case due to public concern about the bias of a judge in a single-judge panel may well legitimize that concern.”
The Justice Department’s motion to refer the case indicated that at least seven lawsuits in Texas against the Biden administration had been filed with the Victorian State Division, and almost all of them guaranteed that Tipton would hear those cases.
Texas tends to divide its claims against the Biden administration into divisions, with most or all cases assigned to a single judge. In the documents, the Justice Department argued that Texas could “get around the random appointment system by never applying to divisions where they have a non-trivial chance of not knowing which judge they are likely to be assigned.”
Tipton did not directly influence the broader Texas model for where he files cases. Tipton said that there is limited 5th Circuit case law on when a case should be referred due to judge selection issues, and citing one such case, he wrote that “it is not a closely guarded secret that a trial involves strategy in itself.”
The Justice Department has made similar requests to Judge James Wesley Hendricks and Judge Matthew Kachsmaric in connection with cases brought before their courts challenging, respectively, Biden’s investor rules and the annual spending bill signed by the president last year.
Like Tipton, Hendrix and Kaczmarik are considered conservative judges, and all three have ruled against the administration in previous cases brought by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and other Republican state attorneys general.