Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Misconduct Charges Against 5th Circuit Judge Include Her Religious Justifications For Capital Punishment

As reported by the Austin Chronicle and Courthouse News Service, six civil rights groups and seven individuals, most with special expertise in legal ethics, last week filed judicial misconduct charges against U.S. 5th Circuit Judge Edith Jones primarily over comments she made in a lecture titled "Federal Death Penalty Review."  The talk was given at the University of Pennsylvania Law School on February 20.  The Complaint (full text) alleges that Judge Jones' conduct was "prejudicial to the effective and expeditious administration of the business of the courts, undermines public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary, and creates a strong appearance of impropriety."

The Complaint filed with the 5th Circuit pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 351(a) focuses on a variety of Jones' remarks-- many uncomplimentary to racial and ethnic minorities and dismissive of defenses raised in capital cases.  In addition, the Complaint alleges that Judge Jones, focusing on the Biblical origins of the death penalty, argued that:
The United States system of justice provides a positive service to capital-case defendants by imposing a death sentence, because the defendants are likely to make peace with God only in the moment before imminent execution.