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A federal judge is under investigation for judicial misconduct relating to remarks she made during a lecture at Penn Law School.

The June 4 complaint against Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Edith Jones claims she praised the death penalty as a “positive service” because “defendants are likely to make peace with God only in the moment before imminent execution” at an event on Feb. 20.

The complaint — which is supported by the affidavits of six lecture attendees — also claimed Jones “demonstrated racial bias” and a “lack of impartiality” by saying that “certain racial groups like African Americans and Hispanics are predisposed to crime” and by expressing disgust at how defendants use mental imparities to avoid receiving the death penalty.

The proceedings against the judge were transferred to the District of Columbia from the Fifth Circuit — where the complaint of misconduct was filed — on June 12, after an order for the change was issued by Chief Justice John Roberts.

Roberts ordered this change because of a rare request five days earlier for Jones’ case to be reviewed by another court.

In one of the affidavits submitted with the complaint, Director of the Atlantic Center for Capital Representation Marc Bookman recalled Jones saying that “sadly” certain races engage in criminal behavior more often than others.

Bookman also wrote that Jones said she “believes it may do a disservice to the mentally retarded to exempt them from death sentencing.”

1968 Penn Law graduate Lawrence Fox, an expert on legal ethics, wrote in an affidavit for another case that Jones used her “judicial prestige to aggressively promote her personal agenda in favor of the death penalty.” The case dealt with the sentencing of a man whose appeal for leniency on the basis of mental impairment was denied two years ago by a panel Jones sat on.

Fox also noted that because Jones “showed prejudice against criminal defendants in general … it would be unreasonable to conclude that her ardently stated views did not affect her decision-making in specific cases.”

2013 Law School graduate Chanel Lattimer-Tingan, who attended Jones’ lecture, wrote in an affidavit that “it was simplistic for [Jones] to justify the death penalty solely on the basis of the heinousness of the crimes” and that her “dismissive approach to claims of ‘mental retardation’ surprised me.”

Despite the current controversy surrounding Jones’ remarks, Associate Dean for Communications at Penn Law Steven Barnes said that no issues or concerns were raised with Penn Law administration after the lecture.

An officer from the Penn Federalist Society, the organization that hosted the public event, said in an email “several officers were at the event [but] none have reported recalling anything inappropriate.”

The officer — who wished to remain anonymous because neither he nor the Federalist Society wish to be involved in the controversy — said that he does not believe that Jones engaged in judicial misconduct.

In particular, he noted a letter from someone who was at the event that was published on the blog Althouse, which he said best matches his own recollection.

An attendee of Jones’ lecture defended her in the blog post, stating, “She was careful to distinguish between the constitutionality, morality and effectiveness of capital punishment” and that there is “nothing unseemly or improper about a judge having personal moral convictions.”

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