The Volokh Conspiracy

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Judicial panel affirms dismissal of complaint against Judge Edith Jones


In 2013, several attorneys and activist groups filed a complaint against Judge Edith Jones of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, alleging that she engaged in judicial misconduct when while delivering a lecture at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. According to the complainants, Judge Jones made remarks exhibiting bias against some classes of defendants. After reviewing the allegations, the Judicial Council of the D.C. Circuit dismissed the complaint. According to the a Special Committee report adopted by the Council, the complainants were unable to show by a preponderance of the evidence that Judge Jones had made any inappropriate remarks that indicated bias or partiality. Unsatisfied, the complainants appealed.

Last week, the Committee on Judicial Conduct and Disability of the Judicial Conference of the United States affirmed the dismissal of the complaint against Judge Jones. According to the Committee, the initial decision was based upon an "exhaustive review" and "searching investigation" of all available evidence, and the complainants were unable to offer any basis for disturbing the Council's judgment.

Because the opinion presents a comprehensive analysis of the specific evidence relating to each allegation, we decline to repeat that process here except as relevant to address Petitioners' arguments that the Circuit Judicial Council erred in weighing the evidence and committed legal error in its analysis of Judge Jones's alleged statements regarding (1) race; (2) intellectual disability; (3) actual innocence; (4) foreign nationals and international law; and (5) pending cases. With regard to each set of statements, we do not believe the Circuit Judicial Council or the Special Committee "ignored evidence in complainants' favor" or that the Council or the Committee's weighing of the evidence was deficient. Rather, the Circuit Judicial Council and the Special Committee determined the entire record was insufficient to establish by a preponderance of the evidence standard that events had occurred that could support a finding of misconduct-an essential failure rather than an election of proof-a process and conclusion well within the Council and Committee's authority and charge.

Reading the opinion, one gets the impression that the initial complaint was somewhat contrived, and that the complainants real objection is to Judge Jones' judicial philosophy, not any actual misconduct. For an even less sympathetic take on the complainants' case, see these comments by ATL's Tamara Tabo, who clerked for Judge Jones.

The Houston Chronicle reports on the decision here. Eugene also posted on the initial dismissal here.