Medical treatment

Lawyers Challenging Alabama’s Transgender Medical Treatment Ban Face Questions About Judge Shopping

Lawyers who filed lawsuits challenging Alabama’s ban on medical treatment for transgender minors have been ordered to appear before a panel of three federal judges to answer questions about possible judge purchases.

U.S. District Liles Burke, who is presiding over the case, raised the issue because plaintiffs challenging the law filed similar lawsuits in the central and northern districts of Alabama, then withdrew their cases after being combined and attributed to Burke.

After the withdrawals, one of the attorneys told and the Montgomery Advertiser that they plan to refile the case. Lawyers filed a new case a few days later with another group of plaintiffs. The new case was also attributed to Burke, who was nominated by President Trump and confirmed to the bench in 2018.

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

The hearing will be held 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 summoned to attend.

“Courts have the inherent power to deal with conduct by attorneys that abuses the judicial process,” the order reads.

The order invites Attorney General Steve Marshall and state attorneys, who are advocating the ban on transgender medical treatment for minors, to participate in the hearing.

“While this process is not adversarial in nature, invited defense attorneys may present any factual evidence they have that may assist the panel in determining whether there has been an attempt to circumvent the random assignment procedures. Matters of the United States District Courts for the Northern District of Alabama and the Intermediate District of Alabama,” the order reads.

Burke is considering temporarily blocking Alabama law that has made it a crime to provide puberty blockers, hormones and surgery to transgender minors to help them transition to the gender they identify with.

Burke held a three-day hearing last week and said he expects to issue a decision by the end of this week. The law went into effect on Sunday, the first such ban to take effect in the country.

Related: Alabama’s puberty blocker ban leaves trans youth and families with questions