Western District of Louisiana is preferred venue for conservative states challenging Biden policies
Republican-led states banding together to challenge Biden administration policies are filing their cases in the Western District of Louisiana, where they can “virtually guarantee” that a GOP-appointed judge will be hearing their cases, according to an exclusive article by Bloomberg Law.
The preferred federal judge in that district is Chief Judge Terry Doughty, an appointee of former President Donald Trump, who since summer 2021 has heard more multistate challenges to Biden administration policies than any other judge in the nation, according to Bloomberg Law.
Doughty, 63, has heard five out of nine multistate GOP lawsuits filed in the Western District of Louisiana in less than two years. The total number of multistate GOP lawsuits filed against the Biden administration is 45.
Bloomberg Law based its story on an analysis of 239 partisan multistate cases filed over three presidential administrations, using data from Paul Nolette, a political science professor at Marquette University.
The article noted that Louisiana federal appeals are heard by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals at New Orleans, which has a conservative majority.
Doughty spoke with Bloomberg Law. A former state court judge, he said he doesn’t consider himself political, and he first sought a federal judgeship during the Obama administration.
“I’m not deciding these cases because I’m wanting to get the Biden administration,” he said. “There’s no question I’m conservative, but that doesn’t mean I’ll rule a certain way.”
Democrats also seek out friendly states. During the Trump administration, Democratic states joined to file 90 lawsuits challenging federal policies. Fifty-nine percent of the cases were filed in the Southern District of New York and the Northern District of California.
Nolette told Bloomberg Law that the data shows evidence of forum shopping.
“It’s not a coincidence that the same judges keep coming up time and time again and that’s an intentional strategy,” Nolette said.
Judge Gregg Costa, a former 5th Circuit judge who is now at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, has a suggestion to prevent forum shopping in a particular division: Require three-judge panels in lawsuits that seek nationwide injunctions.
“There’s 677 district judges” across the country, Costa told Bloomberg Law. “If you can pick one of them, it’s not hard to find someone who’s going to agree with your position, however extreme it might be. And so this is just feeding the perception that the courts are partisan actors.”