On Wednesday, March 20, 2024, National Review reported that a three-judge panel had unsealed its long-awaited 53-page report revealing findings about lawyers’ improper judge-shopping in several cases challenging an Alabama law. The law bars providing puberty blockers or cross-sex hormones to minors as a treatment for gender dysphoria. The report found that the lawyers had inappropriately tried to select judges seen as likely to rule in their favor when handling cases against the Alabama statute.

The panel’s months-long investigation concluded that 11 out of 39 plaintiffs’ attorneys intentionally attempted to direct their cases to a specific judge they viewed as favorable. In particular, the lawyers tried to avoid assignment to Judge Burke. Those found guilty of misconduct, as listed in the report, included attorneys Melody Eagan, Jeffrey Doss, Scott McCoy, Jennifer Levi, Shannon Minter, James Esseks, Kathleen Hartnett, Michael Shortnacy, LaTisha Faulks, Asaf Orr, and Carl Charles.

One lawyer singled out was Carl Charles, who recently left his position at Lambda Legal to join the Department of Justice. However, the report strongly condemned Charles’ actions, detailing how he initially denied making any phone calls to a judge’s chambers but eventually admitted to contacting Judge Thompson’s office after being confronted with his phone records. The panel maintained it was “inconceivable” Charles genuinely forgot about the call and that his testimony only changed when it was clear the panel was aware of his actions.

The exhaustive report also noted credibility issues with some plaintiffs’ attorneys’ statements during the investigation. It described claims made by ACLU Foundation lawyer James Esseks as “straining credulity.” In general, the panel voiced concerns about the “candor” shown by attorneys representing the plaintiffs, referred to as Walker counsel.

In summarizing its findings, the National Review article stated the panel had unanimously concluded without reservation that some plaintiffs’ lawyers purposely tried to bypass the courts’ standard procedures for random case assignment. While all plaintiffs seek favorable forums, the article reiterated there are proper and improper ways to pursue this goal, implying the methods used in this situation crossed an ethical line.

 

 

Source: NationalReview