Judge Edith Jones Subject To Ethics Complaint Over Alleged Bizarre Comments At Federalist Society Meeting And Judicial Bias

Edith-Jones-Judge-Edith-H-Jones-Edith-Hollan-JonesThere 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”

  1. I have followed the periodic stories of this woman’s tirades, tantrums and tyrannies. There is no reason to mince words. She is a common bigot, intemperate, disrespectful and self-absorbed. She possesses neither the emotional nor intellectual maturity we have the right to expect from a judge. She is, in short, an embarrassment to everyone except, apparently, herself. Since she is unlikely to resign, she ought to at least recuse herself from all cases involving blacks, Hispanics, gays and the mentally ill. And if we were to inquire further, we would likely discover that she is not particularly fond of Muslims or Catholics either. It is regrettable that we must continue to be plagued by this festering boil on the judiciary’s backside.

  2. She’s good lookin’ for a judge… Should get her own TV show!

  3. If you understand what the word “predisposed” means, then you can’t argue that the judge is not biased. Saying that you believe a member of a group is predisposed to commit a crime means that you have pre-judged the liklihood that the person is guilty of having committed a crime of which he or she is accused.

    Interestingly, people are found of claiming that “minorities” committ more “crime” than whites, but these claims tends to break down upon closer inspection. Whites use illegal drugs more often than non-whites in this country. Every such use is a crime. But the police are not looking for drug dealers in suburbia, so the drug trade there goes on largely unobstructed. Indeed, that is where the bulk of drug demand comes from. But as a recent ACLU study illustrated, laws against possession of illegal drugs are enforced in a wildly racially biased way – almost to the point of constitutiing black codes (codes that criminalize behavior for blacks but not for whites).

    Also, crimes like pedophilia, especially those involving rings of people who trade in child pornography and trade children are disproportionately carried out by white males. Does it follow that white males are “pre-disposed” to be pedophiles? Only an imbecile would think so.
    And this judge is exactly that – an imbecile who is not fit to sit in judgement of anyone on any matter.

  4. She is common. But worse, she is commonplace. An ignorant, powerful, emotionally disturbed judge in charge of other people’s lives. Ho hum…

    Get off the bench and go tend to the grandkids.

    Ugh no! The only thing that can possibly avert the ruin that is coming to us is having good-enough parents and good-enough caretakers for our puppies so that the young will be able to manage their own lives better than the judges of our time manage the justice system.

  5. Steve Sailer: I read the same report, Here’s what you may have missed. Homicide rates for both blacks and whites are overwhelmingly INTRAracial – 84% of whites killed by whites, 93% blacks killed by blacks. You can’t live between Philadelphia and New York, watch the nightly news on both and not know how many black-on-black killings there are in both cities.

    But homicides alone cannot account for the disparity or justify Jones’ beliefs. They are simply too small a part of total crime statistics to account for the disparity.

    Multiple studies for decades have shown that when the crime is against a white person, the wrong black person is more likely to be convicted than the wrong white person. More to the point are less violent crimes, especially drug possession. If you are a member of a minority, you are more likely to be prosecuted, convicted, and imprisoned for a felony than a misdemeanor than if you are white. Other than homicide, for the same crimes, white kids are more likely to get slapped on the wrist while black kids are more likely to go to prison. If you can disprove that, please proceed.

  6. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2336647/The-terrifying-moment-crazed-woman-throws-rocks-wields-baseball-bat-sends-pit-bulls-reporter.html

    A terrifying video of the incident shows Lawrence throwing a rock at them, wielding a bat, screaming ‘Get away from me,’ and directing her two pit bulls to attack.

    The dogs then chased down 24-year-old reporter Abbey Niezgoda and bit her on her forearm before Lawrence called them back.

    In the video, Lawrence, who is black, also could be heard yelling racial slurs at Niezgoda, who is white.

  7. Lawyers should never ask a Georgia grandma a question if they aren’t
    prepared for the answer.
    In a trial, a Southern small-town prosecuting attorney called his first
    witness, a grandmotherly, elderly woman to the stand. He approached her
    and asked, ‘Mrs. Jones, do you know me?’ She responded, ‘Why, yes, I do
    know you, Mr. Williams. I’ve known you since you were a boy, and frankly,
    you’ve been a big disappointment to me. You lie, you cheat on your wife,
    and you manipulate people and talk about them behind their backs. You
    think you’re a big shot when you haven’t the brains to realize you’ll never
    amount to anything more than a two-bit paper pusher. Yes, I know you.’
    The lawyer was stunned. Not knowing what else to do, he pointed across
    the room and asked, ‘Mrs. Jones, do you know the defense attorney?’
    She again replied, ‘Why yes, I do. I’ve known Mr. Bradley since he was a
    youngster, too. He’s lazy, bigoted, and he has a drinking problem. He can’t
    build a normal relationship with anyone, and his law practice is one of the
    worst in the entire state. Not to mention he cheated on his wife with three
    different women. One of them was your wife. Yes, I know him.’
    The defense attorney nearly died.
    The judge asked both counselors to approach the bench and, in a very
    quiet voice, said,
    ‘If either of you idiots asks her if she knows me, I’ll send you both to the
    electric chair.

  8. According to a 2011 Obama Administration report:

    “Based on available data from 1980 to 2008—

    “Blacks were disproportionately represented as both homicide victims and offenders.…The offending rate for blacks (34.4 per 100,000) was almost 8 times higher than the rate for whites (4.5 per 100,000).”


    Sounds like Judge Jones’ big crime is telling the truth.

  9. Fastforward to 2017 and President Marco Rubio has been caught stealing from the plate at Xmas Eve Mass in the National Cathedral. Justice Jones says to her fellow Justices: 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;
    If President Rubio took some money out of the plate at church as it passed by then simply prone to it.

  10. Fast forward to the year 2027 and Justice Jones is in conference with her cohorts regarding a denial of counsel case. Here is what she says directly to Justice Sotomayor and to Uncle Clarence: 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;

  11. http://www.diffen.com/difference/Ethnicity_vs_Race

    My opening statement: “Race does not exist, it’s definition is a bunch of crap”.

    With just a bit of extra common sense, I will say “I know a guy” that has refused to check any box on the census form indicating his “race”.
    This guy would be eager to be dragged into court for his refusal and hear the court and justice system define the term race.
    Race is a construct of feeble mind think from the past mountains of feeble mind think. We have a battery of new knowledge, new tests, new understandings. Much the same as Darwins theory of Evolution was (and still is) rejected, his theory grows stronger every year and IMO is 100% valid. It is time for the scientist, sociologist, and enlightened people of the world to give up this strawman of race.
    The term ethnicity which is covered in this link should have a light shined on it too.
    Cultural environment is truly a valid reason for how an individuals views, conceptions, ethics, are formed. Family traditions, religious beliefs, and congruity effects how an individual grows and perceives the world.
    Skin eye and hair color are nothing but melanin content, and absorption of different light rays. All scientific evidence speaks to the truth of this.
    We use this false term “RACE” based on the prejudice and ignorance of our ancestors. It is time to call out this Bull-Loney and confront the sickness and mind set of it’s use.
    My ending statement,: think of how the term is used, weigh the negative ways it is used versus the positive. I will argue even the few (if any) positive ways are really negative. Race is just deflection, and excuse, a strawman conveniently used to justify ignoring the imbalance of opportunity among all the peeples of the world.
    Now I’m done. Thank you. PS I am sincere, I know that doesn’t make me right, but I sure am eager for the census bureau to call my “friend” out on this one. :o)

  12. Some of her comments are correct, perhaps most of them. Mental competance is a red herring, though its no improvement to be locked up in a mental ward with evil psychiatrists & their nurses forcing their will on you. I’ve heard US prisons are only slightly better &, of course, they are more populated than any other country in the world by about ten times. (its relevant since status quo is not the answer). Race issues are very delecate but I know I have a better chance if I leave my car unlocked in Wyoming than in southern California & Baltimore, at least in part due to the ethnicity. We whites are messed up in other ways & all races have many plus points including mine. On the death penalty, I think it should be used more often where the guilt is certain. That might preclude a bunch of Texas states until they get their act together. But it should be quick & almost immediate. That way it saves millions & even does the heinous criminal a favor by giving him a chance to start again with a clean slate. When I see evil things like the Taliban chopping off the arms & legs of women they dissapprove of, or some of these shootings & bombings of inocent people, my first reaction is to want to do similarly to them. Then I realize the ‘justice dispenser’ would quickly degenerate to their level, after a couple of mistakes were made. So then it best to quickly dispose of the really heinous criminal & empty our prisons of lesser criminals or mislabeled criminals. I love the hispanic race; their family values are generally better than most whites; but I did not miss the fact that otherwise law abiding families took shopping carts into the sacked stores in L A during the South Central riots.

  13. Mespo, you cite the following: “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.” Later, you conclude with “Smart people, those Americans.”

    This poll is encouraging in that it demonstrates that Americans are starting to get it. But 44% approval is still way too high. And only 75% agreeing that the justices’ decisions are SOMETIMES influened by political considerations is way too low.

    However, let’s not quibble; an improvement in reality perception is an improvement nonetheless.

  14. Ten Things You Should Know About The Federal Judge Accused Of Racism
    By Ian Millhiser
    Jun 5, 2013

    1. Edith Jones Waved Off Horrific Sexual Harassment

    A paper mill worker named Susan Waltman’s supervisor told her to have sex with a co-worker, “pinched her buttocks with pliers and tried to put his hands in her back pockets,” and fellow employees hung used tampons from their lockers. When she complained to a manager, she was told she should “expect this type of behavior working with men.” After she complained, an employee of another company that worked in the mill grabbed her arm while she was carrying a vial of hot liquid, and another worker stuck his tongue in her ear. One of her co-workers told her “he would cut off her breast and shove it down her throat.” He later dangled her over a stairwell thirty feet above the floor. Though she met with senior managers about these incidents, the harassment continued. At one point, a co-worker “grabbed Waltman’s breasts and directed a high pressure hose at her crotch.”

    Judge Jones wrote a dissenting opinion claiming that this woman’s sexual harassment suit should be thrown out.

    2. Edith Jones Thinks Victims Of Employment Discrimination Should ‘”Take A Better Second Job Instead Of Bringing Suit”

    In a speech at the University of Texas, Jones claimed that employment discrimination suits “seldom turn on evidence of race- or sex-based discrimination” and generally involve “petty interoffice disputes, recrimination, second-guessing and suspicion.” She advised workers claiming discrimination to “[t]ake a better second job instead of bringing suit,” according to the Houston Chronicle.

    3. Edith Jones Thinks A Man Whose Lawyer Slept Through Much Of His Trial Should Be Executed

    Judge Jones joined an opinion holding that a capital defendant could be executed despite the fact that his lawyer slept through much of his trial. Though that opinion was eventually reversed by the full Fifth Circuit, Jones dissented from that reversal.

  15. I think her statements qualify as free speech, bizarre though her speech may be. In a way, she’s actually an “honest” judge becauses she has disclosed how she really feels about certain matters and has displayed her particular judicial biases. Let’s face it, a LOT of judges have biases on such issues in one direction or another; they just don’t generally divulge them in public speech.

  16. I have been in her courtroom several times. I have never seen her smile. The picture above has a smile of sorts. Was it enhanced? Maybe she is just having a bad life. Can’t we cut a little slack for someone who is having a bad life?

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