TCRP Joins Broad Coalition in Ethical Complaint Against 5th Circuit Judge Edith Jones


AUSTIN, TX – A broad coalition — including an agency funded by the Mexican government (the Mexican Capital Legal Assistance Program) , various civil rights organizations, legal ethics experts, and law professors – are today filing a judicial-misconduct complaint against Judge Edith Jones of the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, located in New Orleans, with jurisdiction over Texas.

The Complaint alleges that at a recent speech on February 20, 2013, at the University of Pennsylvania School of Law, Judge Jones made statements that violated basic rules of judicial ethics, including the fundamental duty of impartiality, and were “astonishingly and flagrantly biased” against minority groups and people with mental disabilities.

Judge Jones’ revealed an array of biases, included the following:

* 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;

* 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;

* 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;

* 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

* 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 filing of an ethical complaint by an agency funded by an independent nation against a sitting judge is apparently unprecedented. The Mexican Capital Legal Assistance Program is funded by the government of Mexico to attorneys represent the government of Mexico in pre-trial, appellate, and post-conviction proceedings, and provide litigation support to defense counsel. MCLAP may also file amicus briefs on issues of international law, or provide other resources necessary to ensure Mexican nationals receive vigorous and effective representation.

“The Code of Conduct for United States Judges requires that ‘a judge should . . . act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.’ Not only do the judge’s remarks not ‘promote public confidence’ in her impartiality, but they do just the opposite and cause people to wonder whether her decision-making is infected with bias. Her comments certainly show an astonishing and frank bias, which ought to disqualify her from hearing cases involving claims of racism and discrimination, especially in capital punishment cases where a person’s life is at stake,” said Jim Harrington, TCRP Director.

In her speech Judge Jones discussed specific cases, including the cases of Ramiro Ibarra Rubi, a Mexican National on death row; Elroy Chester, an African American man whose intellectual-disability defense Judge Jones rejected and who is scheduled for execution on June 12, 2013; and Larry Swearingen, whose claim of innocence has received widespread attention and support. The federal judicial Code of Conduct generally prohibits judges from publicly commenting on the merits of a case that is “pending or impending in any court.”