5th Circuit Judge Accused of Misconduct

     DALLAS (CN) – Six civil rights groups and six law professors filed a judicial misconduct complaint against 5th Circuit Judge Edith Jones for comments she made on race, religion and the death penalty during a speech to law students.
     Jones said that certain “racial groups like African Americans and Hispanics are predisposed to crime” and are “prone to commit acts of violence,” Jones said in her June 2 lecture at the University of Pennsylvania School of Law, according to the complaint from the NAACP, LULAC, the National Bar Association’s Houston chapter and others.
     The complaint states: “Judge Jones’ biased remarks demonstrated both an utter disregard for the fundamental judicial standard of impartiality and a lack of judicial temperament. Her remarks were inflammatory and damaging to ‘public confidence in the judiciary.’ In Texas, her comments resonated even more strongly given the widespread controversy in the case of Texas death row inmate Duane Buck. Mr. Buck received a death sentence after a psychologist testified during the sentencing phase that Buck posed a future danger because of his race, specifically, because he was African-American. The NAACP Legal Defense Fund called the psychologist-witness’s testimony in the Duane Buck case a ‘blatant example of racial bias.’ Scores of prominent officials are calling for a new sentencing hearing for Mr. Buck, rightly stating that ‘[t]he State of Texas cannot condone any form of racial discrimination in the courtroom. The use of race in sentencing poisons the legal process and breeds cynicism in the judiciary.’
     “Even the Texas Attorney General and the Texas Solicitor General considered such racist testimony to be so improper – and unconstitutional – that they took the highly unusual step of conceding error in the U.S. Supreme Court.” (Citations omitted.)
     The complaint adds: “Judge Jones made several statements demonstrating racial bias and indicating a lack of impartiality. She said that ‘certain racial groups like African Americans and Hispanics are predisposed to crime’ and “prone” to commit acts of violence.’ She made ‘generalized and stereotypical comments about racial groups and their “criminal tendencies.”‘ Judge Jones stated that ‘race’ was merely a ‘red herring’ ‘thrown up by opponents of capital punishment,’ and that no case had ever been made for ‘systemic racism.’ She also asserted that ‘certain systemic classes of crimes’ exist and 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.’ By way of example, she asserted as a ‘fact’ that ‘a lot of Hispanic people [are] involved in drug trafficking,’ which itself ‘involved a lot of violent crime.’ She ‘dismiss[ed] race as a legitimate concern in how the death penalty was administered.’ During the question-answer portion of the program, Judge Jones ‘lost her composure’ to an extent that ‘[t]he host of the program ended the program abruptly.'” (Citations omitted.)
     The complaint states: “In her remarks, Judge Jones made the following points:
     “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; …
     “Additionally, Judge Jones demonstrated extreme disrespect to a fellow 5th Circuit judge, lack of judicial temperament, and a failure to maintain and observe the ‘high standards of conduct’ required of federal judges by (1) loudly slamming her hand on the bench during Judge James L. Dennis’s questioning of counsel during oral argument, (2) disrespectfully asking Judge Dennis if he ‘wanted to leave’ the courtroom during the argument, and (3) saying she wanted him to ‘shut up.'”
     The petitioners accuse Jones of violating four canons of the Code of Conduct for United States Judges and ask that their complaint be transferred to another circuit under Rule 26 of the Rules for Judicial Conduct and Judicial Disability Proceedings. Here are the complainants:
     Gregory J. Kuykendall, Director, Mexican Capital Legal Assistance Program (MCLAP);
     League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), by Luis Roberto Vera, Jr.;
     NAACP – Austin Chapter, by Nelson E. Linder;
     National Bar Association, Houston Affiliate – J.L. Turner Legal Association, by Mandy Price;
     Texas Civil Rights Project (TCRP), by James C. Harrington;
     La Union del Pueblo Entero (LUPE,) by Juanita Valdez-Cox;
     Charles W. Wolfram, Professor Emeritus, Cornell Law School, author of “Modern Legal Ethics”;
     Renato Ramirez, investor/philanthropist;
     Professor Robert P. Schuwerk, co-author of “Handbook of Texas Lawyer and Judicial Ethics”;
     Mark I. Harrison, Osborn Maledon, Former Chairman of ABA Commission to Revise the Model Code of Judicial Conduct;
     Susan Martyn, Distinguished Professor of Law & Values, University of Toledo College of Law;
     Ronald Minkoff, with Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz, past president of the Association of Professional Responsibility Lawyers;
     Ellen Yaroshefsky, clinical professor and director of the Burns Center for Ethics in the Practice of Law, Cardozo School of Law.

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