Judge Edith Hollan Jones has the right resume for the Supreme Court short list. She has spent much of her life in President Bush's home state of Texas, and in two decades on the federal bench, Jones has built a staunchly conservative record. Now, though, some court watchers are wondering whether she is too far to the right to ever be confirmed.
Despite talk of peace on Capitol Hill, Republicans are still several votes short of being able to halt a filibuster against a nominee whom Democrats might find too extremeand Judge Jones might fit that profile. "If right now Justices Scalia and Thomas are Bobbsey twins," said David Dow, a professor at the University of Houston Law Center, "then if Judge Jones were there, they would become Bobbsey triplets . . . . She has proven to be a deeply ideological judge."
Jones, 56, was appointed to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals by President Ronald Reagan in 1985 and has been on the short list for a Supreme Court vacancy since George H.W. Bush was president. Jones was born in Philadelphia and received her bachelor's degree from Cornell University, but she was raised in San Antonio and has spent most of her career in Texas. As a result, friends say, she shares many of the southwestern values of retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.
Jones graduated from the University of Texas School of Law in 1974 and then joined a Houston law firm, Andrews, Kurth, Campbell & Jones, where she specialized in bankruptcy and insolvency cases. She was named the first female partner at the firm while on maternity leave in 1982. "The way she became such a superstar was becoming focused, direct, and therefore effective," said Hugh Ray, a partner at the firm who worked with Jones.
She also became closely aligned with the Republican Party. From 1982 to 1983, while still at Andrews, Kurth, Campbell & Jones, she served as the general counsel to the party in Texas. Then in 1984 she received a call from a friend in the Justice Department asking whether she was interested in becoming a federal judge. Jones has described her appointment to the bench as a case of "knowing the right person at the right time."
Jones has been an outspoken conservative on and off the bench, rarely shying away from hot-button issues or masking her remarks. "I don't think anybody would say she isn't a straight shooter," Ray said. "They just don't agree with how she shoots."
A longtime advocate of an expedited capital-punishment system, Jones, in a 1988 death-penalty case, said a defense attorney was playing "chicken" when he requested a stay one week before an execution. In an article two years later, Jones proposed eliminating the 30-day notice prior to an execution, a notice that she said "sandbagged" the process.
Jones was heavily criticized for her comments during oral arguments in a 1989 sexual harassment case. After a lawyer listed a series of sexual harassment claims, Jones said, "Well, your client wasn't raped." Jones eventually dissented from the court's ruling, saying the abuses did not amount to a "hostile environment."
Jones has pleased judicial conservatives with her steadfast opposition to activist judges and her views on abortion. In a 2004 abortion case, Jones railed against the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision, calling it an "exercise of raw judicial power." She said recent studies about the emotional effects women face after an abortion and evidence that babies can feel pain earlier than was once believed could lead courts to conclude that a "woman's 'choice' is far more risky and less beneficial, and the child's sentience far more advanced, than the Roe court knew." Throughout her time on the bench, Jones has also continued to focus on bankruptcy, urging Congress to reform bankruptcy laws and serving on the National Bankruptcy Review Commission.
Off the bench, Jones spends most of her time with her family. Her husband is a partner at her old law firm in Houston, and one of their sons works in the legal field. Her other son was recently killed in a car accident. Friends say Jones is focused on law and philosophy even away from the court: "I think her hobby is reading legal matters," Ray said.