Say you’re a litigant in federal court, and due to some conflicts of interest, every judge in the circuit where your case is being heard recuses. Where are the judge or judges who’ll hear your case going to come from?
Turns out there’s a federal law, 28 U.S.C. §294ff, that covers this process, called intercircuit assignments. In short, the Chief Justice of the U.S. maintains a list of judges willing to hear out-of-circuit cases, and then with some input from the Judicial Conference and Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, he assigns judges from that list to hear cases with the aforementioned blanket recusals.
Unsurprisingly, this process is riddled with opacity, and what’s worse, if you’re suing judiciary officials, it’s possible those very officials will have some say in which judges are assigned to your case.
With this as the backdrop, Fix the Court and the Purple Campaign have joined together to write to the House Judiciary Committee to ask them to review the federal law and the regulations that lay out this process to ensure greater transparency and reduce potential conflicts of interest.
Suggestions include making the names of the judges on the Chief Justices’ roster of judges, as well as those on the Judicial Conference’s intercircuit assignment committee, public, and updating and publicizing the associated regulations. And that’s just the start.
Read our letter here.