Did you ever wonder why you were assigned a certain judge? The Regional Rules actually grant some insight into the system:
For assignment purposes civil cases are grouped into categories, usually by the type of case. The case types chosen for each category are expected over the long run to generate about the same amount of judicial work. Criminal cases are grouped in a similar fashion.
The current assignment system is computer based. A separate assignment deck is kept for each category. (Prior to the introduction of the computerized assignment system, physical decks of assignment cards were used. The terms “assignment deck” and even “assignment card” continue in use as metaphors to describe the manner in which the computer operates.) In the deck the name of each regular active judge on full assignment appears an equal number of times. The name of the chief judge appears half as often as a regular active judge. The ratios for senior judges depend on the caseloads they are carrying, varying from being no different from that of a regular active judge, to a one-half share of less than all of the categories.
As part of filing a new case, the assignment clerk enters the case category information into the assignment system. The system keeps track of cases processed and automatically shows the next available case number.
Once the case number and category are verified, the computer uses a shuffle procedure to pick a name from one of the unused names remaining in the assignment deck for the category selected. For obvious security reasons, the deputies assigning the cases do not have access to the software that sets up the assignment decks. The deputies responsible for setting up the decks do not assign cases. This system together with the changes in the make up of the deck due to equalization and the shuffling of the names prior to the actual assignment assures that staff cannot determine in advance the name of the judge to whom a case will be assigned.
The assignment system also handles the reassignment of cases. Cases are reassigned for a variety of reasons. The most frequent is the need to reassign a case because it is related to one pending on another judge’s calendar. Recusals result in reassignments or equalization. When a new judge takes office, cases are reassigned from the calendars of sitting judges to form a new calendar. When a judge leaves, the cases on the judge’s calendar are reassigned among sitting judges. There are even provisions in the procedures for reassignments due to errors made at assignment.
When a judge is appointed to the Court an initial calendar is prepared. It consists of civil cases equal in number to the average number of civil and criminal cases pending on the calendars of sitting judges. The new judge gets only civil cases in the initial calendar. A civil case that was twice previously reassigned to form a new calendar cannot be reassigned a third time for that reason. Any civil case in which the trial is in process or has been held and the case is awaiting final ruling also cannot be reassigned. The remaining cases are arranged in case number order and a random selection is made. In this way the age distribution of the cases on the new judge’s initial calendar reflects the average age distribution of all civil cases pending. Such a distribution serves to provide the new judge with a calendar that is reasonably close to the average in terms of workload.