Trials & Litigation

Federal judge warns law firm that 'judge shopping ain't a thing here'

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Plaintiffs can’t go looking for “greener judicial pasture” by dropping 213 of 218 defendants from a lawsuit and then filing a new suit against the same 213 defendants, according to a federal judge in Chicago.

U.S. District Judge Steven C. Seeger of the Northern District of Illinois scolded lawyers in a trademark infringement suit for attempting the maneuver, Law360 reports.

He expressed his displeasure in a Jan. 18 docket entry and in courtroom remarks that same day that were made public Monday.

Lawyers with Hughes Socol Piers Resnick & Dym initially succeeded in obtaining a new judge in the second suit. But Seeger gave partner Michael A. Hierl and his colleagues a scolding when he spotted the issue and ordered them to inform the new judge what happened.

“Let me be a hundred percent clear on this,” Seeger said during the Jan. 18 hearing. “Clients have some latitude at picking a forum. Clients have no latitude picking a judge. Judge shopping ain’t a thing here or anywhere else.”

The new judge sent the new case to Seeger.

The lawyers for the plaintiff, Blue Sphere Inc., had explained that 213 defendants were dropped from the initial suit because of Seeger’s bond requirements of $10,000 for every defendant subjected to a temporary restraining order. A surety bond for all 218 defendants would be 2% of the bond amount, or $43,600.

That creates “a significant financial barrier” for the plaintiff to obtain injunctions, the lawyers said in a court filing.

Blue Sphere, which does business as Lucky 13, had sued the defendants for allegedly selling counterfeit clothing under its brand name.

Hierl did not immediately reply to the ABA Journal’s request for comment in a voicemail and an email.

Seeger is an appointee of former President Donald Trump. He has also talked tough to lawyers representing plaintiffs in two other cases.

In March 2020, Seeger slammed a lawyer for filing an emergency motion to halt the sale of knockoff unicorn art two days after civil litigation in the Northern District of Illinois was put on hold because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The world is facing a real emergency. Plaintiff is not,” Seeger wrote.

In March 2023, Seeger invited an employment lawyer to “revisit the tone” of a motion that the judge thought was littered with “potshots and hyperbole.”

“Searching for over-the-top sentences in the motion is like shooting fish in a barrel,” Seeger said.

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