U.S. Fifth Circuit - The FindLaw 5th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

Judge Edith Jones Cleared in Bias Complaint; Appeal Coming

Last June, Fifth Circuit Judge Edith Jones was accused of making racist comments about a person's propensity for violent crime and otherwise biased comments about the death penalty. A week later, she was pulled off of a death penalty case.

How about a year later? It turns out that Judge Jones was cleared of any wrongdoing by the Judicial Council of the District of Columbia Circuit (the complaint was transferred out of the Fifth Circuit, for obvious reasons) back in August, though the order was finally made public yesterday after the complainants filed an appeal, reports the ABA Journal.

The conclusion (for now): Jones' racial comments were not about racial predispositions, but were instead about statistics. And the death penalty comments? A mere musing on the viability of certain defenses that rarely succeed.

Jones: I'm Not Racist. It's Statistics!

After a lengthy investigation that began with interviewing 45 attendees of the lecture (which was not recorded) and review of the attendees' and Jones' notes, the Council's report basically concludes that this was all a big misunderstanding.

While the complainants felt that Jones was saying that African Americans and Hispanics were predisposed to crime, she said that she was merely quoting statistics and referencing McCleskey v. Kemp, the Supreme Court case that rejected the use of race-based statistics as a death penalty defense.

As for her comments on the death penalty -- race, retardation, innocence, and arbitrariness claims are red herrings -- again, that was merely a comment on how rarely such claims work and their viability after McClesky.

Jones also apologized, once again, for that time she told a fellow judge to "shut up" during oral arguments.

Appellants: One-Sided Process Only Considered Jones' Testimony

Obviously, the coalition of 13 individuals and public interest groups that filed the initial complaint aren't happy. They are appealing the Council's ruling to the U.S. Judicial Conference, arguing that "The procedure followed in this matter has been egregiously one-sided and fundamentally unfair to complainants."

They complain that Jones' testimony was credited over the accounts of many attendees and that much of the material gathered in the investigation was not shared with them.

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