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Thursday, June 13, 2013

“Pattern of misconduct" demands full investigation of Fifth Circuit Judge Edith Jones

A series of “inflammatory and racially charged remarks” and other misconduct demand a full investigation into Judge Edith Jones of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, Alliance for Justice said Wednesday.

Judge Edith Jones
during a trip to Iraq
Judge Jones has engaged in “a pattern of misconduct that calls into question her ability to uphold the rule of law with impartiality, fairness, and integrity,” according to AFJ President Nan Aron.

Aron’s conclusion is part of a five-page letter sent Thursday to Chief Judge Merrick B. Garland of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

AFJ wrote the letter in support of a complaint against Jones  filed by more than a dozen civil rights groups, attorneys and legal scholars.  The complaint has been transferred to the Judicial Council of the D.C. Circuit for review.

The complaint cites a series of statements about race, capital punishment, the intellectually disabled and the people of Mexico made by Jones in a speech earlier this year to a chapter of the Federalist Society.

But, as the letter notes, those remarks are “part of a long pattern of prejudicial statements and actions by Judge Jones on issues that can and do come before her on the court,” statements
and actions that violate the Code of Conduct for federal judges. Among those statements and actions:

  • Reportedly complaining that a last-minute motion to stop an execution forced her to miss a birthday party.
  • Excoriating a lawyer for seeking to delay an execution – even though the Supreme Court had just taken a case that could have a crucial impact on whether his client should be executed.
  • Repeatedly demonstrating hostility to employment discrimination suits, once telling law students that alleged victims should “take a better second job instead of bringing suit.”
  • Questioning the wisdom of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
  • Telling a fellow judge, in open court, to “shut up.”
  • Suggesting time and again that religious doctrine takes precedence over the law.

Given this history, and many other examples, Aron says in the letter, “We were dismayed, but sadly not surprised” by Jones’s most recent remarks, which included assertions that:

  • The United States system of justice provides a positive service to capital-case defendants by imposing a death sentence, because the defendants are likely to make peace with God only in the moment before imminent execution. 
  • Certain “racial groups like African Americans and Hispanics are predisposed to crime,” are “‘prone’ to commit acts of violence,” and get involved in more violent and “heinous” crimes than people of other ethnicities. 
  • Claims of racism, arbitrariness, and even of innocence are simply “red herrings” used by opponents of capital punishment. 
  • Capital defendants who raise claims of “mental retardation” abuse the system. 
  • Mexican nationals would prefer to be on death row in the United States rather than in prison in Mexico.

“Alliance for Justice asks for a full investigation into Judge Jones’ misconduct and violations of the Code of Conduct for United States Judges,” the letter states.

UPDATE, JUNE 14: Watch the news conference by the New Orleans NAACP and other organizations concerning Judge Jones.

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