The Judicial Council Report is available in Adobe .pdf format.
Today's Houston Chronicle reports, "Federal panel dismisses complaint against Houston judge," by Lise Olsen. Here's an extended excerpt from the beginning of this detailed news report:
After a year-long secret investigation, a panel of federal judges in Washington, D.C., has dismissed a high-profile misconduct complaint against Houston-based Judge Edith Jones of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Jones had been accused of publicly mocking the appeals of the mentally disabled and Mexican-born defendants and of describing African-Americans and Hispanics as "sadly" more likely to commit crimes.
Three judges and a court-appointed attorney probed whether Jones, a former chief circuit judge, improperly discussed pending death row cases and whether she made discriminatory remarks in public.
Ultimately, they concluded that there wasn't enough evidence to justify disciplining Jones, despite affidavits from five law students and an attorney who thought her actions constituted misconduct. The related 73-page order and report was made public this morning.
The misconduct complaint against Jones was originally filed in June 2013 by a group of nonprofits and prominent legal ethicists. They alleged that Jones improperly discussed pending cases and made derogatory remarks during a speech at the University of Pennsylvania in February of last year.
"Two Months Later, Dismissal of Fifth Circuit Judicial Misconduct Case Revealed," is by Zoe Tillman of Legal Times, via the National Law Journal. Again, this is a detailed report.
In August, a panel of federal judges in Washington dismissed a misconduct complaint against Judge Edith Jones of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. The decision was announced on Wednesday—not by the court, but by the group that filed the complaint.
Judicial misconduct proceedings largely take place in secret. The federal judiciary’s rules require that most information about misconduct proceedings stay confidential. The bulk of complaints are dismissed early on, which under the rules usually means that a judge’s name and details about the complaint are never revealed.
Jones’ case is rare in how much information is public. The coalition of civil rights organizations, law professors and legal ethics experts that brought the case announced the complaint when they filed it in June 2013. The following month, the Fifth Circuit identified Jones by name when it posted an order transferring the case to the D.C. Circuit.
On Wednesday, the coalition revealed the August dismissal when it announced it was appealing the decision. The D.C. Circuit decided to publish the documents online later on Wednesday morning, now that the coalition’s appeal—which included a copy of the August order and special committee report—was public and Jones didn’t object, according to the appeals court.
"Judges Dismiss Complaint on Alleged Bias Remarks," is the AP coverage, via ABC News.
Thirteen individuals and public interest groups filed a judicial misconduct complaint against Jones and Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts assigned the case to the appeals court in Washington at the request of the chief appeals judge in New Orleans.
"Broad Coalition Files Appeal of One-Sided Ruling Dismissing Ethics Complaint Against Judge Edith Jones, Citing Pattern of Bias; Civil rights groups, ethicists denounce lack of transparency in judicial complaint process," is a news release. The full text is below:
Washington, D.C. – A coalition of civil rights and legal organizations, ethics experts and concerned citizens filed an appeal with the Judicial Conference of the United States late yesterday requesting its Committee on Judicial Conduct and Disability revisit a 2013 ethics complaint against Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Edith H. Jones that asserts she violated the Code of Conduct for U.S. Judges.
The filing maintains Judge Jones has demonstrated bias unsuitable for a federal judge, raising concerns about her ability to rule impartially and objectively on cases before her. The complaint arose following comments she made at the University of Pennsylvania Law School on February 20, 2013, when she said that certain racial groups are predisposed to crime and that condemned inmates’ claims of racism, innocence and intellectual disability are nothing more than “red herrings.”
Those filing the appeal also expressed profound concerns about the process by which ethics complaints against federal judges are handled. The D.C. Circuit judges who dismissed the initial complaint in August repeatedly relied on Judge Jones’ own version of the facts about her Penn Law speech – in spite of conflicting sworn testimony from six people who attended the lecture. The judges allowed Judge Jones to testify but did not allow those who filed the complaint or attended the lecture to do the same. The judges also received documents and other secret evidence that they and Judge Jones refused to disclose to complainants.
“Judge Jones’ biased statements about minorities, capital defendants and the mentally challenged raise grave concerns about her ability to act as a fair and impartial judge,” said Tatiana Alexander, president of the J.L. Turner Legal Association, one of the named parties on the appeal. “Regardless of the precise language she used, or her attempts to explain away her statements, the race narrative she has articulated is deeply destructive and at the heart of the problems in our criminal justice system. Now is the time for a transparent accounting of the facts.”
To underscore the one-sided nature of the ethics process, the petitioners’ appeal drew attention to the sections of the August dismissal that acknowledged that the allegations, if true, would have compelled a finding of judicial misconduct.
“We have no doubt,” the D.C. Circuit judges wrote, “that suggesting certain racial or ethnic groups are ‘prone to commit’ acts of violence or are ‘predisposed to crime’ would ‘reflect adversely on [a] judge’s impartiality,’ reduce ‘public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary,’ and ‘have a prejudicial effect on the administration of the business of the courts.’ Such comments would therefor violate both the Code of Conduct and the Judicial-Conduct Rules.”
This conclusion was not limited to Judge Jones’ comments on race. “We have no doubt,” they added, “that if a judge were to say that all claims of intellectual disability are invalid or abusive, or were to ‘express disgust at the use of mental retardation as a defense in capital cases,’ there would be good reason to doubt that judge’s ability to decide such cases such cases impartially.”
Nonetheless, relying on Judge Jones’ denials and evidence never disclosed to complainants, and ignoring the sworn evidence from student attendees, the D.C. judges found that the petitioners failed to prove their allegations. The appeal states: “At its core, the decision of the [judges] serves to undermine any faith the public may have in the fairness and impartiality of the judiciary, the federal judicial discipline system or a system free of race bias.”
Petitioners contend that the only way in which the D.C. Circuit reached their determination that the comments did not violate the Code of Conduct was due to their skewing the weight of the evidence Judge Jones presented on her own behalf.
“Just as concerning as these instances of bias, the one-sidedness and secrecy surrounding the ethics complaint process and the untoward deference to the judge’s denials makes it unlikely that any claims of judicial misbehavior can be handled in a way that gives the public confidence that justice is being served,” said Luis Roberto Vera, Jr., national general counsel of the League of United Latin American Citizens, another party to the appeal.
Those filing the appeal are hopeful that they will experience a more open process with the Committee on Judicial Conduct and Disability, chaired by Anthony Scirica of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals (Sr.). The petitioners are seeking access to all evidence presented, including Judge Jones’ testimony and recollections, the special counsel’s report and the documents submitted by third parties on her behalf.
The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, where Judge Jones serves on the bench, oversees complaints related to federal law originating in Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi. It is home to 34 million Americans.
The appeal is available in Adobe .pdf format.
Earlier coverage of the ethics complaint filed against Judge Jones begins at the link.