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For Release: January 16, 2004
Contact: David Almasi at 202/543-4110
or [email protected]

 

NAACP Legal Chief's Resignation Proves Need for Probe of Special Interest Influence Over Senate Judiciary Committee

Project 21 Ethics Complaint Thought to Spur Jones Departure

Members of the African-American leadership network Project 21 say the unexpected resignation of NAACP Legal and Defense Education Fund, Inc. president and director-counsel Elaine Jones - in the wake of Project 21's ethics complaint against her with the Virginia State Bar - provides justification for the investigation of charges of inappropriate influences by special interest groups while Senator Pat Leahy (D-VT) served as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

"It is impossible to avoid the conclusion that Elaine Jones cast herself on her sword in light of the ethics complaint against her," said Project 21 member Mychal Massie. "While this is a triumph for justice, a full investigation is needed to expose the behind-the-scenes dishonesty and corruption that is so apparent in the Senate Judiciary Committee's past."

Leaked Senate Judiciary Committee memos from Leahy's tenure indicate that liberal special interest groups such as the NAACP, People for the American Way and the Alliance for Justice exerted extraordinary influence on the scheduling of hearings and votes on the Bush Administration's judicial nominees. In particular, Jones is identified as having contacted the office of Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) on April 17, 2002 in an effort to delay the confirmation of judicial nominees to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals until after that court decided on a challenge to the University of Michigan's affirmative action policy (the school's policy was affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court this past June). According to the memo, Jones - who was participating in the case - was concerned that "if a new judge... is confirmed before the case is decided, that new judge will be able... to review the case and vote on it."

Project 21 joined the Center for Individual Freedom, the Coalition for a Fair Judiciary and the Congress of Racial Equality in a complaint against Jones with the Virginia State Bar on December 4, 2003. The complaint charged that "Ms. Jones violated both the spirit and letter of the Virginia Rules of Professional Conduct when she intentionally acted to influence and disrupt an impartial tribunal that was then in the deliberative process of considering a landmark constitutional case in which she was counsel to one of the parties." The Virginia State Bar required Jones to respond to the complaint by just after the beginning of the new year. The Virginia State Bar has not notified Project 21 of any response from Jones.

"Senator Leahy and his supporters have thus far been successful in sweeping charges of special interest domination of his committee staff under the rug. This surprise resignation could be the smoking gun," said Project 21 director David Almasi. "Chairman Hatch should now feel an obligation to give the charges of liberal tampering his full attention."

Project 21 has been a leading voice of the African-American community since 1992. For more information, contact David Almasi at (202) 543-4110 x106 or [email protected], or visit Project 21's website at http://www.project21.org/P21Index.html.

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