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Ten Things You Should Know About The Federal Judge Accused Of Racism

By Ian Millhiser  

"Ten Things You Should Know About The Federal Judge Accused Of Racism"

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Judge Edith Jones

Earlier this week, several civil rights groups filed an official complaint against Judge Edith Jones, a former chief judge of the powerful United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, alleging that she claimed that African-Americans and Hispanics are predisposed towards violent crime and that the death penalty is a public service because it allows inmates to “make peace with God.” Though these allegations will need to be proven during the formal ethics process, they are entirely in line with Jones’ past record. Here are some other facts you should know about Judge Edith Jones:

1. Edith Jones Waved Off Horrific Sexual Harassment

A paper mill worker named Susan Waltman’s supervisor told her to have sex with a co-worker, “pinched her buttocks with pliers and tried to put his hands in her back pockets,” and fellow employees hung used tampons from their lockers. When she complained to a manager, she was told she should “expect this type of behavior working with men.” After she complained, an employee of another company that worked in the mill grabbed her arm while she was carrying a vial of hot liquid, and another worker stuck his tongue in her ear. One of her co-workers told her “he would cut off her breast and shove it down her throat.” He later dangled her over a stairwell thirty feet above the floor. Though she met with senior managers about these incidents, the harassment continued. At one point, a co-worker “grabbed Waltman’s breasts and directed a high pressure hose at her crotch.”

Judge Jones wrote a dissenting opinion claiming that this woman’s sexual harassment suit should be thrown out.

2. Edith Jones Thinks Victims Of Employment Discrimination Should ‘”Take A Better Second Job Instead Of Bringing Suit”

In a speech at the University of Texas, Jones claimed that employment discrimination suits “seldom turn on evidence of race- or sex-based discrimination” and generally involve “petty interoffice disputes, recrimination, second-guessing and suspicion.” She advised workers claiming discrimination to “[t]ake a better second job instead of bringing suit,” according to the Houston Chronicle.

3. Edith Jones Thinks A Man Whose Lawyer Slept Through Much Of His Trial Should Be Executed

Judge Jones joined an opinion holding that a capital defendant could be executed despite the fact that his lawyer slept through much of his trial. Though that opinion was eventually reversed by the full Fifth Circuit, Jones dissented from that reversal.

4. Edith Jones Would Allow Porn Bans And Bans On “the ‘F’ word in public venues”

Jones once accused the Supreme Court of “overstepping its bounds” when it decided “pornography cases [and] the cases involving free speech that included those where people were allowed to spout the ‘F’ word in public venues.”

5. Edith Jones Told A Fellow Judge To “Shut Up” During A Court Hearing

While she was the Fifth Circuit’s chief judge, the full court heard a case involving a criminal defendant’s drug conviction, and her more liberal colleague Judge James Dennis posed a series of skeptical questions to the prosecution. Jones objected so strenuously to Dennis’ continued questioning, which she claims was preventing other judges from asking questions, that she slammed her hand down on the table, pointed towards the door, and asked Dennis if he would like to leave the courtroom. When Dennis asked her to repeat herself, she said that she wants Dennis to “shut up.”

6. Edith Jones Urged The Supreme Court To “Re-Evaluate Roe

In a case attempting to reopen Roe v. Wade, Jones wrote an opinion claiming that “the Court’s constitutional decision making leaves our nation in a position of willful blindness to evolving knowledge should trouble any dispassionate observer not only about the abortion decisions, but about a number of other areas in which the Court unhesitatingly steps into the realm of social policy under the guise of constitutional adjudication.” She urged the Supreme Court to “re-evaluate Roe.”

7. Edith Jones is A Big Fan Of “Junkets For Judges”

Jones ranks fourth, according to a 2010 report by the Alliance for Justice, among judges who have accepted free junkets paid for by conservative groups. These kinds of “junkets for judges” are often sponsored by groups funded by corporate donors with business before Jones’ court.

8. Edith Jones Went To Bat For The NRA

A little over a month ago, Jones authored an opinion saying the court should have struck down a federal law restricting handgun sales to people under the age of 21. According to Jones, “the panel’s approval of banning young adults from the commercial and federally regulated market for ‘the quintessential self-defense weapon’ is class-based invidious discrimination. . . .”

9. Edith Jones Think People File Bankruptcy Because They Lack “Personal Shame”

In an article co-authored with conservative law professor Todd Zywicki, Jones argued that a major reason for increased bankruptcy filings is “a decline in the level of personal shame and societal stigma that previously deterred individuals from filing bankruptcy.” In reality, the primary driver of personal bankruptcies is medical costs. One study found that “62.1% of all bankruptcies have a medical cause,” and the number of bankruptcies attributable to medical expenses increased 50 percent from 2001 to 2007.

10. Edith Jones Could Have Been On The Supreme Court

When Justice Sandra Day O’Connor retired from the Supreme Court, Jones was widely reported as being on the “short list” of potential nominees. President Bush eventually gave the seat to Chief Justice John Roberts.

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