Chief Judge Edith Jones Attacks Fellow Judge in Oral Argument And Yells At Him To Shut Up Or Leave The Courtroom

Chief Judge Edith Jones of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has long been unpopular with many lawyers and judges. Now her reputation for a certain nastiness has emerged in a public scandal after she screamed at her colleague Judge James L. Dennis to “shut up” or get out in the middle of an oral argument.

Even when I clerked on the Fifth Circuit near the start of Jones’ career, she was the subject of many complaints about her private demeanor and perceived bias. This however is a truly amazing transcript produced over at Above The Law.

MR. TURNER: I think the amount of drugs in that truck supports the intent to distribute. And the jury….
JUDGE DENNIS: Well, we’ve said over and over that the amount…. this court, no court has said that you can infer….
CHIEF JUDGE JONES: Judge Dennis….
JUDGE DENNIS: … just on the basis of the amount of drugs …
CHIEF JUDGE JONES: Judge Dennis!
JUDGE DENNIS: Can I, can I, can I ask a question?
CHIEF JUDGE JONES: You have monopolized, uh, uh, seven minutes….
JUDGE DENNIS: Well, I’m way behind on asking questions in this court. I have been quiet a lot of times, and I am involved in this case….
CHIEF JUDGE JONES slams her hand down on the table (loudly), stands halfway up out of her chair, and points toward the door.
CHIEF JUDGE JONES: Would you like to leave?
JUDGE DENNIS: Pardon? What did you say?
CHIEF JUDGE JONES: I want you to shut up long enough for me to suggest that perhaps….
JUDGE DENNIS: Don’t tell me to shut up….
CHIEF JUDGE JONES: … you should give some other judge a chance to ask a question …
JUDGE DENNIS: Listen, I have been in this courtroom many times and gotten closed out and not able to ask a question. I don’t think I’m being overbearing….
CHIEF JUDGE JONES: You’ve been asking questions for the entire seven minutes….
JUDGE DENNIS: Well, I happen to be through. I have no more questions.
CHIEF JUDGE JONES: I just want to offer any other judge an opportunity to ask a question. Some may support your position. If nobody else chooses to ask a question, then please go forward.

As the article explains below, Jones has been extremely harsh with other judges over civility issues and other misconduct. In August, Judge Sam Sparks (W.D. Tex.) was chastised by Jones for telling lawyers that they might have to go to a “kindergarten party” to learn manners. Jones reprimanded Sparks for his “caustic, demeaning, and gratuitous” order as “cast[ing] disrespect on the judiciary.”

Jones has often been cited as a candidate for the Supreme Court as one of the most conservative jurists in the country, though some of us have criticized her for opinions that can be superficial and outcome determinative. She was the General Counsel for the Republican Party of Texas. Her consistent hard right approach to cases often produces a perception of bias and rigidity — and a lack of patience with both lawyers and arguments that are contrary to her views.

Jones later apologized to Dennis, though the question is whether that is sufficient in such an outrageous act of incivility and rudeness. Certainly, it would not be enough under the Jones standard that she applied previously to other judges. The question is whether any lawyers will now bring formal complaints against her for the shocking display.

I have always been critical of the lack of civility in our courts. There are too many judges who are infamous for their arrogance and plain meanness. I was shocked recently, however, to see such an exchange from Richard Posner on the Seventh Circuit, a man who is deserving of great respect for his contributions as an academic and a judge.

[Update: Chief Judge Dennis Jacobs has now added his own name to this list of controversial conduct of judges]

Oral argument: Jones/Dennis Exchange

Source: Above the Law

36 thoughts on “Chief Judge Edith Jones Attacks Fellow Judge in Oral Argument And Yells At Him To Shut Up Or Leave The Courtroom

  1. Judge Jones was two years behind me at UT Law, so I never met her. However, her reputation is that of a rigid, doctrinaire conservative. I believe it is telling that she was on George Bush’s short list for the Supremes. Finally, I note that she is a graduate of Cornell, which I of course regard as one of the (sniff, sniff) lesser Ivies.

  2. This is the typical and mandatory statement of any wing nut who has to hear anything they may not like to hear. “Get out”, “shut up”.

    Dont like the Patriot Act? Then leave the country.
    Dont like GW Bush? Get out.
    Dont like our foreign policy? Dont let the door hit you in the backside on your way out.
    Dont like the war? Get out, you frekin’ traitor.

    And “shut up”.

  3. Noah V,

    That’s a pretty old post. The incident has now been resolved, and my take on it is that the accusations were shown to be false and total nonsense and in fact one female Wisconsin Supreme Court judge’s attempt to game the system using the tropes of workplace and domestic violence.

    Which makes me wonder if she is stupid and got her job because she’s a woman and quotas and cronyism, or if she cynically knew she was doing both to justice as well as to actual victims of workplace or domestic violence.

    False allegations made by a top judge. Truly disgusting stuff. But it makes you wonder just how many rape and dv charges are total bullshit too. And how often judges and everyone else in the system knows that, regardless of how many feminists shout otherwise.

  4. I know the incident is past. I couldn’t remember if it had been on this forum.

    I don’t agree with your take on it that the accusations were shown to be false and total nonsense and in fact one female Wisconsin Supreme Court judge’s attempt to game the system using the tropes of workplace and domestic violence.

    The investigation got passed around like a hot potato with inconclusive results.

    The following three paragraphs are from
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/08/25/david-prosser-wisconsin-supreme-court-choking_n_936366.html

    “Sauk County District Attorney Patricia Barrett, a special prosecutor in the case, said that after reviewing investigators’ reports, she decided there’s no basis to file charges against either Justice David Prosser or Justice Ann Walsh Bradley, who accused Prosser of choking her.

    “Barrett, who is a Republican, told The Associated Press that the accounts of the other justices who were present when the alleged altercation occurred varied widely, however she declined to elaborate.

    ” ‘ I believe a complete review of the report suggests there is a difference of opinion. There are a variety of statements about what occurred … the totality of what did happen does not support criminal charges against either Justice Bradley or Justice Prosser,’ Barrett said.”

    According to http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2008923/David-Prosser-Wisconsin-Supreme-Court-judge-accused-trying-CHOKE-female-colleague.html#ixzz1YuxDvYdN “When contacted by the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism Prosser did not deny there had been physical contact between him and Bradley.”

    She said he choked her, and he said he used his hands to block her neck from charging him. Four other Justices in the room agreed with him or with her, respectively, based on their own party affiliation.

  5. There are many other issues with judges in this district. In a recent civil case in Texas, District Judge Royal Furgeson made the following remarks on the record in a civil case:

    THE COURT: They do and I have jurisdiction, too. So I’ll tell you what…. You want to challenge the court order, I have the marshals behind me. I can come to your house, pick you up, put you in jail. I can seize your property, do anything I need to do to enforce my orders. I’m telling you don’t screw with me. You are a fool, a fool, a fool, a fool to screw with a federal judge, and if you don’t understand that, I can make you understand it. I have the force of the Navy, Army, Marines and Navy behind me.

    THE COURT: You realize that order is an order of the Court. So any failure to comply with that order is contempt, punishable by lots of dollars, punishable by possible jail, death .

    More information about this case is available at http://www.lawinjustice.com

  6. The comments and attacks upon this Judge are out-rageous! It is clear that Judge Jones IS ONE OF A VERY FEW who speak about the Vast Corruption and utter immorality of the United States Courts!
    The United States Federal Courts are akin to Marauding bandits upon the nation’s highways and by-ways! Giant Hookers and Pimps crusing the land in search of innocence, money and sex.
    Clearly they privately laugh at the masses who are relentlessly in search of “their” constitutional rights! The Chief Justice Roberts is a demonic and sadistic brute (probably the reincarnated Hitler) with ass ociate hitlers…people like the bald-headed Breyer….a consummate liar and hypocrit!
    I predict, that this would be the next Revolution taking hold of the country call America, as the masses awake from their slumber! it cannot be easy being the Hon. Jones. Please do not for one moment assume that because she is a Conservative, that she is morally deranged…like, a….Roberts!
    Indeed, she is saddled with gross un-fairness, because she has decided to go “The road Not Taken.”

  7. Is there anyplace for Real American Citizens to express their Outrage at this abuse of judicial privilege? Judge Jones should be sent home on a rail, tarred and feathered!

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