The New York Times reported last week that civil rights organizations and legal ethicists have filed an ethics complaint against Fifth Circuit Judge Edith Jones for remarks she made to the University of Pennsylvania Law School Federalist Society in February. According to affidavits filed in support of the complaint, Judge Jones was speaking about the death penalty and said or implied that black and Latino people are predisposed to commit criminal acts and that defense arguments of racial bias in the criminal justice system are a “red herring.” The event was not recorded or transcribed so we cannot be certain what Judge Jones actually said to her audience.
This certainly provides another opportunity to consider fully the need for diversity on the bench and in the clerkship ranks – so that healthy conversations about viewpoints such as those allegedly expressed by Judge Jones can be had among those deciding the fates of individuals and entities.
And, as we continue to await the Supreme Court’s decision in the Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin case about diversity in higher education, lawyers in particular should be prepared to embrace a more robust definition of diversity, beyond some charitable exercise that will be of benefit only to minority groups. A diverse environment is one that is inclusive… of all races and ethnicities, of all opinions and religious beliefs, of all ability levels and gender identities. When we recognize that every one of us can reap benefits from true diversity, then we can put our differences on the table for acknowledgement and celebration. Then, we can make decisions together that will be for the greater good. Lawyers from all political stripes can and should help shape that conversation.
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