Last night’s event will be tough to top. Justice Clarence Thomas, speaking with Judge Diane Sykes of the Seventh Circuit, delivered remarks that were “equal parts hysterical, poignant and inspiring,” as Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett noted on Twitter.
I was lucky enough to attend, seated just one table away from the stage. Here’s my account of the evening (plus a few photos)….
Several organizations filed a Complaint of Judicial Misconduct against Fifth Circuit Judge Edith Jones earlier this week. The complaint charges Judge Jones with a variety of offenses, but the headline-getter is the claim that she made racist remarks during her speech on February 20, 2013, hosted by the University of Pennsylvania’s chapter of the Federalist Society.
With no transcript or recording of the event, the 12-page complaint relies on the affidavits of a few individuals who attended the speech, including Marc Bookman, the Director of the Atlantic Center for Capital Representation. Bookman’s affidavit serves as the primary account, with the other affiants agreeing and adding relatively few details. About a week before the Penn Fed Soc speech, Bookman published an essay in Mother Jones titled “How Crazy Is Too Crazy to Be Executed?”, about Texas murderer Andre Thomas. Whether Bookman intended ahead of time to use his account of the Fed Soc event as the basis of a misconduct complaint or not, he was likely expecting to be offended when he attended a Federalist Society speech called “Federal Death Penalty Review” by a pro-death-penalty, Texas-based judge. Just a guess….
* Meow! An ethics complaint has been filed against Judge Edith Jones, the judicial diva herself, over insensitive comments about race and the death penalty that she made at Penn Law. [San Antonio Express-News]
* In the pissing contest over judicial confirmations, it’s fair to say that Obama’s recent nominees to the D.C. Circuit won’t receive a hearing, much less be confirmed, any time soon. [WSJ Law Blog (sub. req.)]
* Nobody likes patent trolls, not even the president. Obama went on the offensive yesterday, promising to curb unwarranted intellectual property litigation filed by pesky profiteers. [Thomson Reuters News & Insight]
* Speaking of patents, there’s a new exchange being formed for public trading rights. Please welcome the Intellectual Property Exchange International, the first exchange platform of its kind. IP: so hot right now. [DealBook / New York Times]
* After a review of evidence that Colorado movie theater shooting suspect James Holmes was whacked out of his mind at the time of the shooting, he was allowed to enter an insanity plea. [Bloomberg]
* The judge in the Oscar Pistorius case has adjourned the track star’s legal proceedings until August on account of a “trial by media.” We’ll probably continue to speculate about it until then. [New York Times]
* A woman is suing because she got her ass kicked by a gang of hookers at a Florida hotel. She claims the prostitutes thought she was infringing on their territory. Nope — she’s just a Jersey girl. [Fox News]
Ed. note: This is the first installment of Righteous Indignation, one of Above the Law’s new columns for conservative-minded lawyers.
In this new column, I’ll occasionally be weighing in on legal issues from a conservative, right-of-center political perspective. My aim for my contributions is to balance the liberal heft that regularly gets thrown around on the pages of Above the Law. (That’s got to be a metaphorical scale we’re using to do the balancing, if Elie’s on one end and I’m on the other.)
Where am I coming from that I might alter the usual ATL ideological balance?
Chief Judge Edith Jones: Underneath her robe beats a judicial diva's heart.
Can you enforce civility by being… uncivil? That’s the question being raised, over and over again, by federal judges from Texas these days.
Before we get to the latest ridiculousness, let’s review. Back in August, Judge Sam Sparks (W.D. Tex.) benchslapped some rude lawyers with a snarky order inviting them to a “kindergarten party,” where they would learn such lessons as reasonableness and courtesy.
Ironically enough, some found Judge Sparks’s civility-seeking order to be… rude. Chief Judge Edith Jones (5th Cir.) issued an email reprimand to Judge Sparks, condemning his “caustic, demeaning, and gratuitous” order as “cast[ing] disrespect on the judiciary.” Some observers in turn thought it rude of Chief Judge Jones to call out Judge Sparks in writing, so publicly — she cc’d all of the other Western District of Texas judges on her email — when she could have just made a private phone call.
Chief Judge Jones is a highly regarded conservative jurist and a fixture on Supreme Court short lists, but she might not be the best authority on civility and etiquette these days. Check out the latest craziness — an en banc hearing before the Fifth Circuit that generated judicial fireworks, culminating in Judge Jones essentially telling a colleague to STFU or GTFO….
The benchslapper has become the benchslapped. Judge Sam Sparks, of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, just got smacked around by a higher authority: Chief Judge Edith Jones, of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.
Last month, Judge Sparks issued a sharply worded order in which he compared the counsel appearing before him to squabbling schoolchildren — and invited them to a “kindergarten party,” where they would learn such lessons as “how to telephone and communicate with a lawyer” and “how to enter into reasonable agreements about deposition dates.” In the end, Judge Sparks ended up canceling the party, after the publicly shamed lawyers worked out their issues — but not before his infamous order received national attention within the legal community.
Many observers were amused by Judge Sparks’s order — which was not the first time His Honor has gotten saucy with lawyers in recent weeks (or in his judicial career, for that matter). But a minority felt that the order was over the top and gratuitously nasty.
Among the unamused: Edith Jones, who oversees the federal courts of Texas in her capacity as Chief Judge of the Fifth Circuit. What did she have to say to Sam Sparks?
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