This is a potential blockbuster.
A broad coalition of groups — including an agency funded by the Mexican government (the Mexican Capital Legal Assistance Program), various civil rights organizations, legal ethics experts, and law professors — filed the complaint against 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Edith Jones, who in October relinquished her title as “chief judge” of that court. The New Orleans-based court is one of the most conservative in the country and handles appeals from Texas, Mississippi and Louisiana.
The complaint alleges that at a speech on Feb. 20, 2013, to lawyers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Law, Jones made statements that violated basic rules of judicial ethics, including the fundamental duty of impartiality.
Among her statements:
- 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.
The Trib has links to the complaint and the affidavits. Kos notes that according to the complaint, Jones “also made prejudicial remarks on cases that have yet to wind their way through the lower courts, cases in which she may have a say during any appeals”, which certainly sounds problematic to me. BOR points out that Jones is hardly a stranger to controversy. Having said all that, the group that sponsored her talk has come to Jones’ defense, so the matter is far from settled. I look forward to seeing how this plays out. The Fifth Circuit is in dire need of a makeover, and if it begins with President Obama getting to name a replacement for Judge Edith Jones, that would be all kinds of awesome.