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Gender-affirming care case attorneys face Alabama federal judge over misconduct accusations

gender affirming care concept trangender flag heart doctor US District Judge Liles C Burke
Shutterstock Creative; Alabama State Bar

The 11 attorneys are accused of “judge-shopping.”

Cwnewser

A federal judge inAlabama began hearings this week to determine if sanctions are warranted against several civil rights attorneys accused of attempting to influence court assignments in cases challenging the state’s ban on gender-affirming care fortransgender youth.

The hearings, overseen by U.S. District Judge Liles C. Burke, appointed by former PresidentDonald Trump, are centered on accusations that 11 lawyers engaged in “judge-shopping” to avoid conservative judges likely to rule against them and theirLGBTQ+ clients. This group includes attorneys from prominent rights organizations such as theAmerican Civil Liberties Union, Reutersreports.

Related: Alabama Families Continue to Appeal to Block Transgender Care Ban

Burke’s inquiry follows a 2023 report from a three-judge panel, which claimed these attorneys tried to manipulate the judicial assignment process to have their cases heard by more liberal judges. The panel’s findings prompted the current judicial proceedings, which could lead to professional sanctions against the involved attorneys.

The legal drama began when Alabama passed alaw in 2022 restricting medical treatments for transgender minors. Immediately following the law’s enactment,two lawsuits were filed. These cases were initially assigned to Burke but were withdrawn by the attorneys after failing to reassign the case. A subsequent lawsuit also ended before Burke, intensifying scrutiny over the attorneys’ actions.

During Monday’s session, the first attorney to testify, Michael Shortnacy, refuted the judge-shopping claims, describing the legal team’s actions as a response to the challenging legal environment rather than a coordinated effort to undermine the judicial system, Reuters reports.

Burke reassured the courtroom that sanctions would only be considered for those directly involved in misconduct.

Alabama’s ban on gender-affirming care for minors makes it a felony for physicians to prescribe hormones or puberty blockers to individuals under 19. Burke initially blocked the law in 2022, ruling that it unconstitutionally interfered with parental rights. However, the 11th Circuit cited theU.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the case that overturned Roe v. Wade, in reinstating the law.

Republicans have routinely filed cases in districts that are favorable to their point of view, including the Northern District of Texas, where Judge Reed O’Connor often rules against the rights of the LGBTQ+ community.

The hearings are expected to continue through the week.

Cwnewser
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Christopher Wiggins

Christopher Wiggins is a senior national reporter for The Advocate. He has a rich career in storytelling and highlighting underrepresented voices. Growing up in a bilingual household in Germany, his German mother and U.S. Army father exposed him to diverse cultures early on, influencing his appreciation for varied perspectives and communication. His work in Washington, D.C., primarily covers the nexus of public policy, politics, law, and LGBTQ+ issues. Wiggins' reporting focuses on revealing lesser-known stories within the LGBTQ+ community. Key moments in his career include traveling with Vice President Kamala Harris and interviewing her in the West Wing about LGBTQ+ support. In addition to his national and political reporting, Wiggins represents The Advocate in the White House Press Pool and is a member of several professional journalistic organizations, including the White House Correspondents’ Association, Association of LGBTQ+ Journalists, and Society of Professional Journalists. His involvement in these groups highlights his commitment to ethical journalism and excellence in the field. Follow him on X/Twitter @CWNewser (https://twitter.com/CWNewser) and Threads @CWNewserDC (https://www.threads.net/@cwnewserdc).
Christopher Wiggins is a senior national reporter for The Advocate. He has a rich career in storytelling and highlighting underrepresented voices. Growing up in a bilingual household in Germany, his German mother and U.S. Army father exposed him to diverse cultures early on, influencing his appreciation for varied perspectives and communication. His work in Washington, D.C., primarily covers the nexus of public policy, politics, law, and LGBTQ+ issues. Wiggins' reporting focuses on revealing lesser-known stories within the LGBTQ+ community. Key moments in his career include traveling with Vice President Kamala Harris and interviewing her in the West Wing about LGBTQ+ support. In addition to his national and political reporting, Wiggins represents The Advocate in the White House Press Pool and is a member of several professional journalistic organizations, including the White House Correspondents’ Association, Association of LGBTQ+ Journalists, and Society of Professional Journalists. His involvement in these groups highlights his commitment to ethical journalism and excellence in the field. Follow him on X/Twitter @CWNewser (https://twitter.com/CWNewser) and Threads @CWNewserDC (https://www.threads.net/@cwnewserdc).