I have talked here about how a judge’s personal background will affect his/her judicial opinions. Now, it seems one judge’s personal beliefs may reveal her own motivations. Judge Edith Jones, once considered for appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court, has regularly affirmed dismissals and summary judgments in discrimination cases. She has expressed some impatience with discrimination claims many times.
For example, in DeAngelis v. El Paso Municipal Officers Assn., 51 F.3d 591 (5th Cir. 1995), a female officer (a new sergeant) complained about sex harassment appearing in the form of an anonymous column in the police association newsletter. The column satirized upper echelon officers, including the plaintiff. About ten different columns made anti-female remarks. Judge Jones pointed out, however, that some 30 columns, which were not admitted into evidence, did not include anti-female comments. One of the ten columns even referred to her EEOC complaint as the E-I-E-I-O complaint. The jury found in favor of the plaintiff. But, Judge Jones found the jury verdict was based on insufficient evidence.
A mere ten columns were not "severe or pervasive," said the Judge. They occurred over a 2.5 year period. Only one or two of the ten appeared to refer directly to Sgt. DeAngelis. Id., at 596. As if references to all female officers did not include Sgt. DeAngelis. The Judge even noted with some apparent sarcasm that none of the female officers, including the sergeant, attempted to write rebuttal columns. Id., at 593. She remarked that protecting women from daily insults would impose some form of "Victorian reticence" on the work place. Id., at 593. She concluded her opinion by saying that Title VII cannot remedy every tasteless joke or groundless rumor. Id., at 597. Judge Jones looked at evidence that had not been admitted at trial. She parsed the available evidence. She then took away a verdict applied by the local community. She relegated the plaintiff’s concerns (and that of other female officers) to mere jokes and rumors. She disregarded the findings of the community in the form of a jury.
So, now, Judge Jones has been accused of making racist comments at a speech to the Federalist Society at the University of Pennsylvania Law School.
She has been accused of saying certain "racial groups like African Americans and Hispanics are predisposed to crime," are "prone" to commit acts of violence, and they get involved in more violence and heinous crimes than people of other ethnicities. She also supposedly said claims of mental retardation in criminal cases disgust her. If someone is convicted of a capital crime, that shows the defendant was not in fact "mentally retarded." See San Antonio Express News report.
Various legal groups, including the Texas Civil Rights project, have filed a complaint about Judge Jones saying her remarks detract from her impartiality. If true, these comments do reflect poorly on the Judge’s impartiality.
Judge Jones has expressed antipathy to discrimination claims in other cases. She was one of three authors of the opinion in Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Products, Inc., 197 F.3d 688 (5th Cir. 1999), which ignored age related remarks and which found that evidence of the employer’s prevarication did not in itself suggest age discrimination. The opinion relied on the now discredited "stray remarks" doctrine to find that age related remarks were too remote in time to show age discrimination. But, the Fifth Circuit was overruled by the U.S. Supreme Court in Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Products, Inc., 530 U.S. 130 (2000). In the final decision, the Supreme Court criticized the use of the stray remarks doctrine and said flatly that yes, evidence that the employer lied about a decision could alone support an inference of discrimination.
In cases such as Thompson v. Connick, 578 F.3d 293 (5th Cir. 2009), Judge Jones was accused by her colleagues of ignoring jury verdicts. Id., at 312. In her dissent, judge Jones expressed more sympathy for public officials who withhold contrary evidence than for a wrongfully convicted murderer. Indeed, the evidence would have shown the wrong blood type for the defendant – type B blood when the defendant had type O blood.
In Waltman v. International Paper Co., 875 F.2d 468 (5th Cir. 1989), Judge Jones dissented when the panel denied summary judgment – thus allowing the lawsuit to proceed. The female employee had been groped, grabbed and pornographic material had been placed in her locker. During oral arguments, Judge Jones remarked, "they didn’t rape her, did they?" When the employee’s lawyer mentioned that a male worker pinched her breast, Judge Jones, remarked that well, he apologized for that. In her dissent, Judge Jones remarked that the incidents were "spaced well apart chronologically." id., at 483. She found that sexually explicit graffiti was not directed at the plaintiff, as though being general in nature against all women would remove or obviate any gender bias.
Throughout many of her opinions, judge Jones has consistently tried to explain away the actions of those who have discriminated and shown a lack of respect for the law.