Edith Jones

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Edith Hollan Jones (born April 7, 1949) is a judge and the former Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. President Ronald Reagan appointed her to the Fifth Circuit in 1985, and she was quickly confirmed by the U.S. Senate at the age of only 36.

Jones graduated from Cornell University in 1971. She received her J.D. from The University of Texas School of Law in 1974, where she served on the Texas Law Review. She was in private practice in Houston, Texas, from 1974 until 1985, working for the firm of Andrews, Kurth, Campbell & Jones, where she became the firm's first female partner. She specialized in bankruptcy law. She also served as General Counsel for the Republican Party of Texas from 1982 to 1983.

Chief Judge Jones had been mentioned as a potential nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court dating back to 1990, when Judge David Souter was nominated instead to avoid a political confrontation.

Legal Philosophy

She has shown a conservative approach to law, including the upholding of the death penalty. She was reported to have told a defense lawyer that his last-minute appeal in a death sentence case was ruining her cocktail hour.[1] Further to this, liberal critics have also labelled her "horsewoman of the right-wing apocalypse".

Legislative History

Chief Judge Jones has criticized the use of legislative history, which is often manipulable, when the text of the statute is clear:[2]

[A] powerful line of Supreme Court authority suggests that legislative history should rarely be used in statutory interpretation, because only the text of the law has been passed by Congress, not the often-contrived history. See, e.g., Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Allapattah Servs. Inc., 545 U.S. 546, 162 L. Ed. 2d 502, 125 S. Ct. 2611, 2626 (2005).

In the context of administrative law, Chief Judge Jones likewise downplayed the use of legislative history:[3]

[T]he fact that judicial interpretation of a statute leads to consequences unforeseen by Congress [may not] make a statute "ambiguous" within the meaning of Chevron. See, e.g., Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Allapattah Servs., Inc., 545 U.S. 546, 567, 125 S. Ct. 2611, 2625, 162 L. Ed. 2d 502 (2005) (rejecting legislative history that might have demonstrated Congress "did not intend" to overrule a case because the statutory language was unambiguous that Congress did in fact overrule the case); Free v. Abbott Lab. (In re Abbott Lab.), 51 F.3d 524, 528-29 (5th Cir. 1995) (applying the plain meaning of a statute even though that construction "may have been a clerical error"); see also Thompson v. Goetzmann, 337 F.3d 489 (5th Cir. 2003). In Thompson, the Department of Health & Human Services sought deference for its interpretation of a particular term, as construed in the applicable regulations and in its lawsuit for Medicare reimbursement. The court stated:
[W]e reiterate that the courts are not in the business of amending legislation. If the plain language of the MSP statute produces the legislatively unintended result claimed by the government, the government's complaint should be addressed to Congress, not to the courts, for such revision as Congress may deem warranted, if any.
Id. at 493.

References

  1. Ridgeway, J. Cash Bar in D.C.: People will pay to see this court battle. In fact, they're paying right now; Village Voice; (July 5, 2005) [1]
  2. Garrett v. Circuit City Stores, Inc., 449 F.3d 672, 680 (5th Cir. 2006).
  3. Texas v. United States, 2007 U.S. App. LEXIS 19688, *38 - *39 (5th Cir. August 17, 2007).