Attorneys representing plaintiffs challenging Alabama’s ban on medical treatments for transgender minors have been ordered to appear before a panel of three federal judges to answer questions about possible judge-shopping.

U.S. District Judge Liles Burke raised the issue after the attorneys in Walker v. Marshall filed similar lawsuits in the Middle and Northern Districts of Alabama, then withdrew their cases after they were combined and assigned to Burke.

After the initial withdrawal, one of the lawyers told and the Montgomery Advertiser they intended to refile the case. The lawyers did file a new case a few days later, representing a different set of plaintiffs. The new case was also assigned to Burke, a judge confirmed to the bench in 2018 after nomination by former President Donald Trump.

In the order, the judges noted “certain actions taken by counsel in Walker and Ladinsky v. Ivey” and comments made to the media.

“As Judge Burke noted, the conduct he described in his order could be viewed as evidencing an intent to circumvent the practice of random case assignment,” the three judges wrote in their order for the hearing.

Attempting to circumvent random case assignment is also referred to as "judge shopping,'' commonly defined as the practice of filing several lawsuits that asserts the same claim. It is done with the hope of having one of the lawsuits assigned to a favorable judge.

The hearing is scheduled for May 20 at the Frank M. Johnson Jr. U.S. Courthouse in Montgomery. U.S. District Judges Keith Watkins, David Proctor, and Jeffrey Beaverstock will conduct the hearing. More than 30 lawyers were ordered to attend.

The order also invites Attorney General Steve Marshall and lawyers for the state, who are defending the ban on transgender medical treatments for minors, to participate in the hearing.

The order says, “Although this proceeding will not be adversarial in nature, invited defense counsel may present any factual evidence they have that may assist the panel in determining whether there was any attempt to circumvent the random case assignment procedures of the United States District Courts for the Northern District of Alabama and the Middle District of Alabama.”

The Alabama legislature passed and Gov. Kay Ivey signed the Vulnerable Child Protection and Compassion Act during the 2022 legislative session, and the law went into effect Sunday. The law outlaws the use of gender-affirming medications to treat transgender people under age 19.

Burke held a three-day hearing last week and said he plans to issue a ruling by the end of this week.

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