Federal judges who hired law clerk accused of racist statements won't face misconduct complaints

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Two federal judges—including the chief judge of a federal appeals court—won’t face misconduct complaints for hiring a law clerk accused of making racist statements.

The judicial council of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals a New York tossed the misconduct complaints in a Jan. 13 order, report the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (via Original Jurisdiction), Reuters, Law.com and Above the Law.

The two accused judges were U.S. Circuit Judge William Pryor, who is chief judge of the 11th Circuit at Atlanta, and U.S. District Judge Corey Maze of the Northern District of Alabama.

The judges had hired Crystal Clanton, now a student George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School, despite the past accusations against her, Above the Law had reported in October.

Clanton was accused in a 2017 article by the New Yorker of making racist statements while working as the national field director at the conservative student group Turning Point USA. Clanton was in college most of the time that she worked at the group.

According to the New Yorker report, Clanton sent a text to a colleague that read: “I HATE BLACK PEOPLE. Like f- - - them all … I hate blacks. End of story.” Clanton told the magazine that she had no recollection of the messages, and they “do not reflect what I believe or who I am.”

After graduation, Clanton will work for Maze and then for Pryor.

The judges had told the judicial council that they were aware of the allegations of racist messages, but they had information that the allegations were false.

The judicial council affirmed a Dec. 22 decision dismissing the misconduct complaints by U.S. Circuit Judge Debra Ann Livingston, the 2nd Circuit’s chief judge.

The judicial council said it affirmed Livingston’s decision for reasons stated in her order. The complaints against the judges had been transferred to the 2nd Circuit’s judicial council Dec. 9.

“In rendering this decision to affirm, we need not and do not consider whether the information the judges elicited and received regarding their hiring decisions was accurate but only that they committed no misconduct in performing due diligence and then determining to hire the candidate based on the information before them,” the judicial council said.

Among those who vouched for Clanton is a person in a leadership role at Turning Point USA, Livingston wrote in her decision. That person said Clanton had always treated everyone with kindness, respect and fairness, and that the media accounts were not accurate.

The person said a group of former employees had been the source of the allegations against Clanton, Livingston said. One of the fired employees had created fake text messages to make it appear that co-workers had engaged in misconduct when they had not.

Clanton was in the top 5% of her law school class, and references had extolled Clanton’s good character, Livingston said.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas had written a letter to the 2nd Circuit on Clanton’s behalf, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He said he had recommended Clanton as a law clerk to Pryor.

Thomas said Clanton had lived in his and his wife’s home for almost a year after the woman left Turning Point USA.

“I know Crystal Clanton, and I know bigotry,” Thomas wrote. “Bigotry is antithetical to her nature and character.”

Pryor also confirmed speaking with Thomas, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s coverage of his letter to the 2nd Circuit. Pryor said Thomas told him that Clanton “was a victim of a pernicious attempt to portray her as a racist.” He said Turning Point USA’s initial investigation found that a “rogue employee” had compromised the accounts of several co-workers.

Ginni Thomas, the wife of Thomas, was on Turning Point USA’s advisory council, according to the New Yorker’s 2017 story.

Clanton didn’t speak out in response to the allegations because of a nondisclosure agreement with Turning Point USA, Pryor said.

Seven Democratic members of Congress had sought the investigation. One of the lawmakers, U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson of Georgia, said in a statement the decision tossing the ethics complaint was “nothing more than a rubber stamp that gives two influential federal judges cover for hiring a law clerk with a reported history of racist conduct.”

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