A coalition of civil rights groups on June 4 filed an ethics complaint against conservative federal Judge Edith Jones for discriminatory and offensive remarks she allegedly made during a public speech, including a contention that minorities are predisposed to crime.

Jones, of the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, reportedly made the remarks at a Federalist Society event at the University of Pennsylvania on Feb. 20. While her lecture was not recorded, five students and one attorney signed affidavits, attesting to what they heard.

According to the complaint, Jones said 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. She also allegedly claimed that Mexican nationals would prefer to be on death row in the United States rather than in prison in Mexico, she generally denigrated that country’s judicial system, and said it was an “insult” for the U.S. to look to the laws of other countries such as Mexico, among other outrageous comments.

“Students were appalled by her speech,” said Katie Naranjo, a spokeswoman for the coalition backing the complaint, according to the Huffington Post.

The coalition includes the Mexican Capital Legal Assistance Program, the League of United Latin American Citizens, the Texas Civil Rights Project, the NAACP’s Austin, Texas branch and the National Bar Association’s Houston affiliate.

The group further accused Jones of lambasting the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision prohibiting the execution of persons who are “mentally retarded,” saying the ruling created a “slippery slope.” She allegedly expressed disgust with capital defendants who claim “mental retardation” and said defendants’ claims of racism, innocence, arbitrariness, and violations of international law and treaties are just “red herrings” used by opponents of the death penalty.

Jones also allegedly referred to her personal religious views as justification for the death penalty, saying capital defendants are provided a service since they are likely to make peace with God only in the moment before imminent execution.

The group’s 12-page complaint, filed pursuant to the federal Judicial Conduct and Disability Act, was lodged at the appeals court, which is based in New Orleans and also covers Texas.

Judge Jones’ “inflammatory” remarks violated several canons of judicial conduct, the complaint says.

Her words demonstrate “both an utter disregard for the fundamental judicial standard of impartiality and a lack of judicial temperament,” the group asserts, and her conduct “undermines public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary, and creates a strong appearance of impropriety.”

Jones, 64, was appointed to the Fifth Circuit in 1985 by President Ronald Reagan and was twice mentioned as a nominee to the Supreme Court.

The anti-abortion rights advocate has long been controversial and the complaint cited Jones’ well-publicized interaction with a fellow judge when she told him to “shut up” during an oral argument.

The group’s complaint is requesting Jones’ transfer. Jones has not commented.


Zenitha Prince

Special to the AFRO