HOUSTON — Texas members of People For the American Way Foundation’s African American Ministers Leadership Council praised a Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals decision last week, made public today, to call for an investigation into comments reportedly made by Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Edith Jones indicating a racial bias in her judging. The Chief Judge of the Fifth Circuit determined that this matter would be more effectively investigated by another circuit’s Judicial Council rather than his (and Judge Jones’s) own. We learned today that Chief Justice Roberts had selected the D.C. Circuit’s Judicial Council for this task.
Judge Jones reportedly stated at an event at the University of Pennsylvania Law School in February that Black and Latino people are “predisposed to crime” and “prone to commit acts of violence.” In addition, Judge Jones reportedly said that those who receive the death penalty are done a favor and that arguments of mental retardation and systemic racism amount to “red herrings” in capital trials.
Rev. Dr. Rolen Womack of Houston, Co-Chair of the African American Ministers Leadership Council, said:
We commend the Fifth Circuit’s prompt action in requesting the next step of investigating Judge Jones’ alleged remarks and urge the District of Columbia Circuit to conduct a full and fair investigation.
Throughout American history, African Americans have faced systemic discrimination in the courts. To this day, African Americans are more likely to be arrested for certain crimes and face disproportionately harsh sentences, including being more likely to be sentenced to death. This systemic discrimination stems from the very attitude that Judge Jones reportedly put into words: that Black people and other people of color are “predisposed to crime.”
Americans rely on our federal judges to apply the law fairly and without bias. These recent alleged remarks have called Judge Jones’ impartiality into question. We urge the D.C. Circuit’s Judicial Council to promptly begin its investigation to consider whether Judge Jones should continue to serve on the federal bench.