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President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, DC Circuit Court of Appeals Chief Judge Merrick Garland, is widely respected by members of both parties. His judicial background is largely devoid of controversy over hot-button issues such as abortion or gay marriage. But two years ago, he angered civil rights groups, death penalty lawyers, and other legal observers who accused him and his colleagues on the DC Circuit of protecting a fellow judge accused of serious ethical lapses.
The episode dates back to 2014, when Garland was in charge of ruling on an ethics complaint against Texas Judge Edith Jones of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.
A Reagan appointee, Jones is an archconservative darling of the right-wing Federalist Society and a favorite of presidential candidate Ted Cruz, who has pointed to her as the kind of Supreme Court justice he’d nominate. In 2006, the Texas Observer dubbed her one of the “worst judges in Texas,” in part because of her decision to uphold the death sentence for a man whose lawyer slept through the entire trial. She has been especially hostile to sexual harassment claims, once dismissing such lawsuits in a Federalist Society speech as “petty interoffice disputes.” In one case, a woman provided graphic testimony about the severe sexual harassment and abuse she’d suffered at work, saying that a male co-worker had pinched her butt with a pair of pliers and another had pinched her breast. Jones replied to the latter charge, “Well, he apologized.”
Merrick Garland Was Accused of Protecting a Judge Charged With Ethics Violations