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Ethics Complaint Filed Against Prominent Federal Judge

Judge Edith Jones, former chief judge of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals and a very big name in conservative legal circles (big enough to be on the short list for a Supreme Court nomination during the Bush administration), has been hit with an ethics complaint over remarks she allegedly made at an address at a law school. Among the accusations:

That 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;

That Mexican nationals would prefer to be on death row in the United States rather than serving prison terms in Mexico, and it is an insult for the United States to look to the laws of other countries such as Mexico;

That Defendants’ claims of racism, innocence, arbitrariness, and violations of international law and treaties are really nothing more than “red herrings” used by opponents of capital punishment;

That claims of “mental retardation” by capital defendants disgust her, and the fact such persons were convicted of a capital crime is itself sufficient to prove they are not in fact “mentally retarded”; and

That the imposition of a death sentence provides a positive service to capital-case defendants because defendants are likely to make peace with God only in the moment before their imminent execution.

I haven’t seen the text of the complaint and I’d like to know what the evidence is for these allegations. If they have a recording or multiple sources who were at the event that can attest to those statements, that’s pretty damaging.

Comments

  1. Michael Heath says

    Ed writes:

    If they have a recording or multiple sources who were at the event that can attest to those statements, that’s pretty damaging.

    In Mike’s utopia, most damaging would be Ms. Jones’ reliance on circular logic. Assuming she actually made these statements.

  2. raven says

    This might be a rare piece of evidence that the gods exist.

    This judge just vaporized her legal career.

    Even if she doesn’t get removed, she isn’t getting any more appointments.

  3. Ben P says

    http://abovethelaw.com/2013/06/a-tale-of-sound-fury-but-no-transcript-in-defense-of-judge-edith-jones/

    This has a fair number of details about what was said. It is however, an explicit defense of judge jones by a conservative-ish lawyer on an otherwise very liberal website, so take it as you will. There was no transcript or media recording of the event, which was a talk to a federalist society gathering at the University of Pennsylvania that was specifically focused on the death penalty.

    Short version of what the ethics complaint states:

    1. Judge Jones asserted that “certain racial groups commit more of these crimes than others.” She said that “[s]adly some groups seem to commit more heinous crimes than others.” When asked to explain her remarks, she stated that there was “no arguing” that “Blacks and Hispanics” outnumber “Anglos” on death row and “sadly” it was a “statistical fact” that people “from these racial groups get involved in more violent crime.”

    2. The complaint further alleges that Judge Jones engaged in misconduct when she discussed capital defendants who raise claims of mental retardation. Specifically she stated that she felt that the claim of “Mental Retardation” as a defense or an exception to capital punishment is abused.

    3. The complaint alleges that Judge Jones “indicated that any Mexican National would rather be on death row in the United States than in a Mexican prison” and “stated that Mexico ‘wasn’t about to provide any of their own citizens with the kind of legal protections the person would get in the United States.”

    4. Next, the complaint cites Judge Jones’s discussion of individual capital cases as evidence of her alleged misconduct. It states:“It was clear that Judge Jones was disgusted by the gruesomeness of these killings [ . . . ] Judge Jones made clear her personal belief in the heinousness of the crimes committed and how, in her personal view, that justified imposition of a death sentence.”

    That’s about the sum of it.

    It’s also worth noting that the complainant, Booker Jones, just published an essay in Mother Jones entitled “How crazy is too crazy to be executed” where he takes the explicit position that Texas was wrongfully executing someone and that they should not execute him because he’s insane. Whatever he expected to hear from a conservative judge speaking at a federalist society event about the death penalty, I doubt it would have been friendly to his position.

  4. CaitieCat says

    Good thing Romney didn’t win, or she might just have bought her ticket to ChiefJusticeship on SCOTUS.

  5. Ben P says

    This judge just vaporized her legal career.

    Even if she doesn’t get removed, she isn’t getting any more appointments.

    The chance of her getting removed from the bench is exactly zero. The judicial ethics commission doesn’t have that power, and being an ass doesn’t constitute a “high crime or misdemeanor” that can be a basis for impeachment (nor would such an impeachment likely pass the house and senate even if it were initiated”)

    It may well be another black mark on her resume that might prevent her from being nominated to be a supreme court justice, but in all honesty, her chance is passed.

    She’s 64 years old and the current trend is to appoint justices in their 50’s if possible. For her even to have an outside shot, a republican would have to win office in 2016, and a vacancy would have to open up. Scalia might be the next slot, but by that time Edith Jones would be almost 70, and too old for serious consideration.

    Moreover, her “record” as it were, is already pretty black. She’s probably the 2nd or 3rd most conservative judge sitting on the courts of appeals today. This is just one more thing in a long list of things that would make her a politically untenable nomination. She’d be torn apart in her confirmation hearings. Almost any hypothetical future republican president would be much more likely to nominate a john roberts or samuel alito, obviously conservative, but technocratic and without an extensive history of open advocacy like jones has.

  6. Ben P says

    I might add that “Mental Retardation,” whatever it’s PC status, is a legal term of art used in Supreme Court opinions on Capital Punishment. The way the law functions doesn’t easily allow substitutions of language to fit changing positions on what is deemed polite.

  7. jamessweet says

    I have to agree with some of what Ben P said in #6… I don’t really see how this constitutes an ethics violation. The positions are reprehensible, to be sure (though as several have pointed out, the lack of a transcript is problematic). But what would qualify as an ethics violation?

  8. says

    Claims of innocence are a red herring? Yeah, ’cause no one ever gets falsely accused of a crime. I mean, it’s not like the presumption of innocence is in the Constitution or anything.

  9. D. C. Sessions says

    But what would qualify as an ethics violation?

    Having an affair with counsel (or parties) in a case before her would probably do it, although to get Republicans on board the other party to the affair would have to be female.

  10. Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :) says

    I don’t really see how this constitutes an ethics violation.

    Hold your breath and take more fiber.

  11. says

    Ethics violation or not, I think this proves at the very least that this person is biased in a way that may affect her decisions (and probably already has), pushing her to rule in favor of WASP-y types regardless of the merit of the case or the weight of the evidence.

  12. Nomad says

    Wait, it’s not unethical for a judge to state that it’s a good thing for the government to kill people because just before we kill them, they’re likely to make a religious change that the judge desires?

    Fucking yikes.

  13. Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :) says

    Wait, it’s not unethical for a judge to state that it’s a good thing for the government to kill people because just before we kill them, they’re likely to make a religious change that the judge desires?

    Nah. Impartial justice and civil rights are things we should act to protect only at the uttermost end of need. If we feel like it. But nothing proactive, especially if it might affect the career of someone who’s already powerful and well off.

    Besides, it’s not like she’s talking about US, right “it’s not an ethics violation” guys?

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