Friday, January 10, 2014

Panel Reviews Abortion Clinic Law | Last Word

This week a three-judge panel in New Orleans heard arguments over whether new restrictions passed by the Texas Legislature violate U.S. Supreme Court standards by placing “undue burdens” on women seeking legal abortions.

Officials at the 5th U.S. Court of Appeals say the members of the panel are chosen and cases assigned at random by a complex process. 

Those who believe that all things are guided by Divine Providence may well see the random panel as a sign of God’s position on abortion.

Those who believe in conspiracies will have another take.

Two of the judges on the all-woman panel already ruled in a preliminary procedure that U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel of Austin – an appointee of President George W. Bush – was wrong when he blocked enforcement of the law’s requirement that all doctors performing abortions must have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals.

That provision led to the closing of all abortion clinics in the Rio Grande Valley, where operators say hospitals won’t even send them application forms.

Monday, those two women were joined by a third woman, an Alamo Heights native who is considered one of the nation’s most hostile judges when it comes to women’s issues.

She has written against Roe vs. Wade, but her attitudes toward women and minorities range far beyond the abortion issue.

Edith Jones was appointed to the Appeals Court by President Ronald Reagan at the age of 36.

She has found herself in numerous controversies since.

In 1989 she was on a panel that heard the appeal of a Louisiana factory worker whose sexual harassment suit had been rejected by a lower court.

The woman’s lawyer described constant workplace harassment, ranging from pornographic notes in her locker to her supervisor pinching her buttocks with pliers and trying to put his hands in her back pockets.

When the woman’s lawyer said she was “subjected to virtually every type of sexual harassment imaginable,” Jones said, “Except rape or any serious proposition or any action in which she felt endangered or threatened.”

The woman’s lawyer noted that “one of the guys pinched her breast,” provoking gasps in the courtroom when Jones responded, “Well, he apologized.”

Jones dissented when the majority on the panel reinstated the woman’s lawsuit.

In a 2003 speech to the conservative Federalist Society at Harvard Law School, Jones was quoted on the group’s web site as saying, “Seldom are employment discrimination suits in our court supported by direct evidence of race or sex-based animosity.”

Juries apparently disagreed.

In the previous 10 years, they had sided with plaintiffs in nearly 40 percent of cases.

More recently, Jones played a crucial role in attempting to cover up serious allegations of sexual assault against a federal judge in Galveston.

As chief judge of the 5th Circuit, Jones appointed herself to head a committee investigating allegations by an aide to Judge Samuel Kent.

She said he had assaulted her more than once.

His alleged behavior included pinning her against a wall, lifting her blouse and putting his mouth on her breast, and forcing her head down toward his crotch.

In her investigative report Jones described the allegations as ones of sexual harassment, as if she had only been subjected to dirty jokes.

The judge was temporarily suspended with pay.

Only when the woman pressed criminal charges that led to an FBI investigation did the truth come out.

Kent agreed to a plea bargain that included prison, and resigned after being impeached by the House of Representatives.

Jones is now under investigation by the District of Columbia Court of Appeals for alleged remarks before another Federalist Society, this time at the University of Pennsylvania.

Suffice it to say that few who know her work were surprised when Jones on Monday suggested that a 150-mile trip to Corpus Christi was not very burdensome for the impoverished women of the Rio Grande Valley.

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