Legal Ethics

Chief Justice Roberts assigns DC Circuit to review complaint against 5th Circuit judge

The chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court has put the wheels in motion for a review of a complaint concerning a federal appeals court judge.

The June 12 letter from Chief Justice John Roberts does not name the judge or describe the complaint, but says the transfer was made at the request of the chief judge of the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The Houston Chronicle says the complaint concerns Judge Edith Jones and the Times-Picayune also draws a connection between an unusual public complaint made against Jones earlier this month and the request by Roberts.

Roberts puts the D.C. Circuit in charge of resolving the matter:

“I have selected the Judicial Council of the District of Columbia Circuit to accept the transfer and to exercise the powers of a judicial council with respect to the identified complaint and any pending or new complaints relating to the same subject matter,” wrote Roberts in a letter (PDF) to the D.C. circuit’s chief judge. It was posted on the 5th Circuit’s website, along with a brief explanation.

A coalition of civil rights groups, law professors and legal ethics experts made a public complaint against Jones earlier this month. It primarily focuses on a speech she made on Feb. 20 at a meeting of the Federalist Society at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. She is accused of discussing pending cases and making racially biased remarks there. At issue as well is a September 2011 confrontation on the bench, when Jones was the 5th Circuit’s chief judge, in which she told a colleague to “shut up.”

Jones told Texas Lawyer she apologized to her colleague for the “shut up” remark. She hasn’t commented on the recent complaint, the Times-Picayune says.

See also: “Federal appeals judge is accused of racial bias for alleged comments on criminal propensities”

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