Bankruptcy judge resigns after ethics complaint alleges undisclosed 'intimate relationship' with lawyer
Judge David R. Jones, a Texas bankruptcy judge, in August 2020. Jones has resigned after an ethics complaint alleged that he had an “intimate relationship” with a lawyer who financially benefited from cases before him. Photo by Brett Coomer/The Houston Chronicle via Getty Images.
A bankruptcy judge in Houston has resigned after an ethics complaint alleged that he had an “intimate relationship” with a lawyer who financially benefited from cases before him.
U.S. Bankruptcy Judge David R. Jones resigned after the chief judge of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals at New Orleans filed the Oct. 13 ethics complaint, report the Wall Street Journal and Reuters.
Jones shared a home with lawyer Elizabeth Freeman “since approximately 2017,” according to the ethics complaint. Freeman was a partner at Houston bankruptcy law firm Jackson Walker until December 2022, when she formed a firm, the Law Office of Liz Freeman.
Jackson Walker lawyers regularly appeared before Jones, who approved “substantial” fees for the firm. Although Freeman was not counsel of record in those cases, she did perform work on some of them, and the requested fees for her work were also “substantial,” the ethics complaint said.
Jones did not recuse in Jackson Walker cases and did not disclose his relationship with Freeman to the parties or counsel, according to the complaint. It also appears that Jones approved a fee application from the firm that Freeman formed in December, the complaint said.
In one case, a recusal motion was based on Jones’ alleged relationship with Freeman. Jones referred the motion to another bankruptcy judge without disclosing the facts of the relationship, the ethics complaint said. The motion was denied, and the denial was upheld on appeal by a district court judge who was also unaware of the relationship.
Jones also accepted an appointment to act as a mediator in a case in which Freeman was attorney of record for one of the parties. The relationship was not disclosed, the complaint alleges.
Jones told the Wall Street Journal that he resigned because had “become a distraction to the good work” of the bankruptcy court. He previously told the newspaper that he didn’t disclose his relationship because he wasn’t married to Freeman, and he did not financially benefit from her work at Jackson Walker.