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Federal Judicial Panel Upholds Decision Clearing Judges of Misconduct in Controversial Hiring Case
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In a recent development, a federal judicial panel has chosen not to reconsider its earlier decision, which cleared two judges appointed by Republican presidents of alleged misconduct in connection with the hiring of a law clerk reportedly involved in racist conduct while working at a conservative nonprofit organization. This decision was reached despite external pressures and calls for further investigation.

Background: Misconduct Allegations Surrounding Judges’ Clerk Hiring

The controversy centers on the hiring of a law clerk, Crystal Clanton, who was reported to have engaged in racist conduct during her time at the conservative student group Turning Point USA. A 2017 article by journalist Jane Mayer shed light on the allegations of racial bias within the organization, including a text message from Clanton that read, “I hate Black people.” Clanton, however, claimed to have no recollection of these messages.


The judges involved in the controversy are Chief U.S. Circuit Judge William Pryor of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and U.S. District Judge Corey Maze in Birmingham, Alabama. Clanton was scheduled to clerk for Judge Maze before moving on to clerk for Judge Pryor in 2023. The case prompted significant attention and scrutiny, leading to further investigations and appeals.

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The 2nd U.S. Circuit Judicial Council’s Decision

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The New York-based 2nd U.S. Circuit Judicial Council made headlines when it unanimously declined to reconsider its earlier decision, which dismissed the misconduct complaint filed against Judges Pryor and Maze. This dismissal occurred in January 2022, despite calls for further examination.

The 13-member council, which took up the case due to conflicts within the Atlanta-based 11th Circuit, chose not to reopen the case, even after the national judicial misconduct panel, the U.S. Judicial Conference’s Committee on Judicial Conduct and Disability, directed them to conduct a new investigation. This directive came in July 2022 following concerns raised by Democrats on the U.S. House of Representatives’ Judiciary Committee, including then-chairman Jerry Nadler of New York. These lawmakers argued that the public required assurances that judges’ chambers were free from racial bias.

However, the 2nd Circuit cited arguments presented by Judges Pryor and Maze that the national committee had overstepped its authority by ordering an investigation. According to the relevant statute, the 2nd Circuit’s dismissal order was considered final. The judges contended that the 2008 rule, which allowed the national conduct committee to instruct the circuit council to act, conflicted with the text of the Judicial Conduct and Disability Act of 1980.

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The 2nd Circuit council, after seeking guidance from the executive committee of the Judicial Conference, the judiciary’s top policymaking body, opted not to reopen the case, thus upholding their initial decision. Judge Pryor did not offer a comment on the matter, while Judge Maze declined to comment. Both judges had previously stated that they believed the claims against the prospective clerk, Crystal Clanton, were false after conducting a review.

It is worth noting that Clanton resigned from Turning Point USA and later worked for Ginni Thomas, the wife of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, before attending George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School.

In summary, the federal judicial panel’s decision not to revisit the case upholds its previous ruling, clearing Judges Pryor and Maze of alleged misconduct in the hiring of a law clerk with reported ties to racist conduct. This decision comes despite external pressure and calls for further investigation.

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