On Wednesday, January 3, 2024, Reuters reported that former Houston bankruptcy judge David Jones had filed a motion to dismiss a lawsuit that led to his resignation.
Judge Jones oversaw complex bankruptcy cases in the Southern District of Texas and was one of the busiest bankruptcy judges in the US before stepping down in October 2023. It was then publicly acknowledged that Jones had been in a longterm romantic relationship with Elizabeth Freeman, a bankruptcy lawyer at Jackson Walker law firm. Freeman represented many companies that filed for bankruptcy in Judge Jones’ court.
A lawsuit was brought in October 2023 by a former shareholder of McDermott International, claiming Judge Jones had violated his rights by approving a bankruptcy plan that wiped out equity shares. The plaintiff, Michael Van Deelen, also alleged bias towards McDermott, which was represented by Freeman’s law firm Jackson Walker. In response, the 5th Circuit initiated a misconduct investigation into Judge Jones for failing to disclose his relationship with Freeman but ended the probe when he resigned.
In his recent motion, Judge Jones argued the lawsuit should be dismissed under the doctrine of judicial immunity, which protects judges from being sued over their rulings. He stated Van Deelen’s claims regarding unfair treatment should be addressed through the appeals process of the McDermott bankruptcy ruling, which is currently ongoing, not through a separate collateral lawsuit. Jones’ filing did not address the allegations of bias or discuss his relationship with Freeman.
Jones’ resignation resulted in the reassignment of 3,500 bankruptcy cases he was overseeing. It also raised questions about his handling of cases where Jackson Walker represented bankrupt companies, with the Justice Department now seeking the return of millions in legal fees. Jones is now asking the court to dismiss the lawsuit that contributed to his stepping down as a judge.