On Tuesday, October 21, 2023, the Judicial Council of the 2nd U.S. Circuit decided not to reconsider its previous decision to clear two judges appointed by Republican presidents of misconduct accusations. The judges, 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, were accused of hiring a law clerk who had been reported to have engaged in racist conduct while at a conservative nonprofit.
The decision not to reconsider the case was made despite a directive from the national judicial misconduct panel to open a new investigation into the matter. The panel had faulted the 2nd Circuit for clearing the judges without establishing a special committee to investigate the allegations first. The decision was made after seeking guidance from the executive committee of the Judicial Conference, the judiciary’s top policymaking body.
The controversy surrounding the judges’ hiring of law clerk Crystal Clanton dates back to 2021 when House Democrats first complained about her appointment. Clanton, a graduate of George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School, was slated to clerk for Maze before starting a clerkship under Pryor in 2023.
Clanton’s past involvement with the conservative student group Turning Point USA sparked concerns about racial bias. In a 2017 article, The New Yorker reported that Clanton had sent a text message stating “I hate Black people” to a colleague, and engaged in other racist conduct. Clanton denied recalling the messages.
Pryor and Maze argued that the national committee had exceeded its authority in ordering an investigation, as the 2nd Circuit’s dismissal order was final. They also argued that to the extent a 2008 rule allowed the National Conduct Committee to order the circuit council to act, it conflicted with the text of the Judicial Conduct and Disability Act of 1980.
The 2nd Circuit council’s decision not to revive the case has sparked debate about racial bias in the judiciary. Democrats on the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee, including then-chairman Jerry Nadler, had urged a new investigation to ensure the public that the judges’ chambers are free from racial bias.
A copy of the original filing can be found here.