There have long been complaints about the temperament and civility of Judge Edith Jones of the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Indeed, when I clerked on that court, Jones was rather infamous for her run-ins with colleagues and others. Jones has been criticized for her extremely conservative views and, more importantly, her perceived intolerance (and hostility) for opposing views and colleagues. This includes telling another judge to “shut up” in oral argument. Now, she is facing a formal complaint over a Federalist Society speech given at the University of Pennsylvania where she allegedly said that certain racial groups are predisposed to crime and that defenses like mental competence and actual innocence are “red herrings” among other bizarre claims.
Various law professors, ethics experts, and groups are behind the complaint. Since there was no recording allowed and no transcript, this extraordinary complaint was filed with declarations on what Jones states.
Jones’ comments occurred at a lecture entitled “Federal Death Penalty Review” at the University of Pennsylvania School of Law on February 20, 2013.
The complaints lists a controversial tenure of what are described as unprofessional and hostile conduct toward others. The most recent speech described as including the following statements:
*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, innocence, arbitrariness, and international standards are simply “red herrings” used by opponents of capital punishment;
*Capital defendants who raise claims of “mental retardation” abuse the system;
*The United States Supreme Court’s decision in Atkins v. Virginia prohibiting execution of persons who are “mentally retarded” was ill-advised and created a “slippery slope”;
*Mexican Nationals would prefer to be on death row in the United States rather than in prison in Mexico;
*The country of Mexico does not provide and would not provide the legal protections that a Mexican National facing a death sentence in the United States would receive.
The complaint is based on The Judicial Conduct and Disability Act allowing “[a]ny person alleging that a judge has engaged in conduct prejudicial to the effective and expeditious administration of the business of the courts” to file a complaint against the judge. See 28 U.S.C. § 351(a). Among the cited canons is Canon 2 of the Code of Conduct for United States Judges providing that “a judge should avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all activities.”
As someone who has both defended and charged federal judges in cases of misconduct, this complaint is impressive — an extraordinary collection of allegations that will test the often criticized ability of the federal courts to police themselves. Some of these statements attributed to Jones are quite bizarre like the suggestion of the death penalty as necessary to bring defendants closer to God (though that statement could have been made in jest or sarcasm).
In the past, I have been in an uncomfortable position as a legal commentator when Jones was suggested as a top candidate for the Supreme Court during the prior Bush Administration. Her poor reputation among some judges and lawyers is difficult to explain and remains highly personal or impressionistic. However, this complaint shows that her critics have increased and some of her comments offer a potential objective basis for discipline. To what extent is a judge allowed to express such views as a matter for free speech? Canon 4 states that a judge may engage in “extrajudicial activities, including lecturing on both law-related and nonlegal subjects.” This is followed with the caveat that “a judge should not participate in extrajudicial activities that detract from the dignity of the judge’s office [or] reflect adversely on the judge’s impartiality . . . .”
Notably, the complaint includes a request for a transfer to another circuit for adjudication under Rule 26, which states that “[s]uch transfers may be appropriate . . . where the issues are highly visible and a local disposition may weaken public confidence . . . .”
Many conservatives are likely to find statements from some liberal jurists equally disturbing. Even if these statements cross the line, what is the appropriate sanction. It seems doubtful that anything other than a reprimand would result. That is assuming that there is no question of false statements made in the course of any investigation. If Jones denies these statements, it could create a more serious question for the court if it concludes that the statements were made. If the statements were found to have been made by Jones, the question then becomes a difficult line between free speech and judicial impropriety. Ironically, Jones has never been a strong supporter of such constitutional rights as a judge but may now need to argue for a more expansive meaning.
What do you think? Should judges be allowed to discuss such views in public as a matter of free speech?
Here is the complaint: JonesComplaint_060413
66 thoughts on “Judge Edith Jones Subject To Ethics Complaint Over Alleged Bizarre Comments At Federalist Society Meeting And Judicial Bias”
I agree with Gene that Mespo said it all!
This judge is out of control.
If we could only force the Supremes to live by the same ethics rules as the rest of the federal judges are subject to!
Her husband’s name is Woody Jones. I just thought you should know that.
Tis said about the courthouse that when she was in High School she was nicknamed Edith Retard because she made fun of “retards” on a school bus. Any truth to this? Inquiring dogs want to know.
What mespo said.
From NY Times:
Just 44 percent of Americans approve of the job the Supreme Court is doing and three-quarters say the justices’ decisions are sometimes influenced by their personal or political views, according to a poll conducted by The New York Times and CBS News.
Those findings are a fresh indication that the court’s standing with the public has slipped significantly in the past quarter-century, according to surveys conducted by several polling organizations. Approval was as high as 66 percent in the late 1980s, and by 2000 approached 50 percent.
The decline in the court’s standing may stem in part from Americans’ growing distrust in recent years of major institutions in general and the government in particular. But it also could reflect a sense that the court is more political, after the ideologically divided 5-to-4 decisions in Bush v. Gore, which determined the 2000 presidential election, and Citizens United, the 2010 decision allowing unlimited campaign spending by corporations and unions.
Smart people, those Americans.
There are people out there that think that women should stay at home and not be lawyers, doctors or Indian Chiefs. They think like her. What comes around, goes around lady. Get off the bench and go tend to the grandkids.
She kind of barks like a Pittbull. I wonder if she would be for banning Pitt Bulls or in favor of Pitt Bulls. People who judge all dogs of one breed and say they are all bad are like this judge. She should not be a judge if she is against Pitt Bulls.
“What do you think? Should judges be allowed to discuss such views in public as a matter of free speech?”
Personally, I think they should be given free rein –even encouraged. We need a basis to impeach these kooks in black and what better way than with their own verbal diarrhea?
“What do you think? Should judges be allowed to discuss such views in public as a matter of free speech?”
She should be impeached.
One reason that judges are so seldom sanctioned is that the winners in adjudications before them don’t want to re open or re examine anything decided in their favor. I think that DoJ didn’t /doesn’t want to re examine anything Judge Edward Nottingham did.
I don’t see how such hateful bias can not hurt regard for the judicial system (which has a lot of problems.). Based on her arrogance, I also don’t see that she would keep that bias out of the courtroom. A study of the cases she adjudicated should be made.
Your picture flatters her. You should use a more recent snap. Here’s one:
G, Mason: “Mr Benjamin, there is not a simple disparity, there is a mountain of difference.”
None of this “mountain of evidence” and none of the points in your post address or counter the specific points I made about disparate treatment of whites and minorities by the justice system in dealing with individual crimes. I would like to see the “mountain of evidence” that disproves them, instead of the straw-man of “political correctness”.
Her comments were clearly delusional if the reports are true, as in:
“*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;”
“*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;”
If you believe in any of those three statements above then I would assert you are also delusional.
G. Mason as to your raw statistics I would answer this:
G.Mason#1 – Whether I agree or not I will point out that DOJ statistics verify her claims largely. Are we to assume that statistics are racist?
G.Mason#2 – As a society we are rather incapable of having rational unbiased discussions on anything racial.
As Mark Twain noted, there are lies, damn lies, and statistics.
I submit that G.Mason’s spewing of statistics without addressing causality exemplifies one who is incapable of having rational unbiased discussions on anything racial.
A quick review of any of the number of comments on this blog re the drug war and the prison industry reveals government policies which reek of racist animus
I fear Mr. G.Mason didn’t eat his Cheerios this morning
“Esteemed Mr. Rodríguez:
We are aware that you have been an outstanding, hard working individual and good parent. You have broken immigration laws and request a penalty. However, since your appearance/ethnicity is similar to others (drug dealers, murderers, rapists) I am hereby denying your request for sanctions to get right with the law. You cannot have a Path to Citizenship, because of actions by others (they sin, you pay). This court has decided to ignore the Constitution (specially the 14th. Amendment which covers profiling) and instead follow the guidance of forum posters and Hate Groups”.
It is hereby ordered.
-The Immigration Judge
The various decisions on First Amendment Retaliation do limit speech in a work context. It seems to me that the judicial canons restrict the parameters of judicial speech. The form of judgments, what they include and don’t include, is supposed to be regulated too.
Her Honor should read (and understand) the Constitution…
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