On Wednesday, November 15, 2023, the Judicial Council for the Fifth Circuit concluded its ethics complaint against former US Bankruptcy Judge David R. Jones following his resignation, according to a public court order.
The case is entitled “In the Matter of Judge David R. Jones,” with case number 05-24-90002.
The complaint process was initiated on October 13 by Chief Judge Priscilla Richman of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. The complaint stemmed from Judge Jones’ failure to publicly disclose a romantic relationship with Elizabeth Carol Freeman, an attorney whose firm, Jackson Walker, had cases before his court in the Southern District of Texas.
On October 16, just days after the complaint was filed, Judge Jones submitted his letter of resignation with an effective date of November 15. As a result of no longer serving as a federal judicial officer, Judge Jones could no longer be subject to the disciplinary procedures laid out in federal statute.
In the court order concluding the complaint, Chief Judge Richman acknowledged Judge Jones’ resignation was an “intervening event” that made further action on the ethics complaint unnecessary. The order finalized the complaint process pursuant to the relevant sections of the U.S. Code and Judicial Conduct Rules.
Judge Jones’ resignation came amid scrutiny of his relationship with Freeman and integrity questions around cases her firm handled in his court. He had stepped away from large bankruptcy cases and began reassigning them in mid-October, ahead of his resignation. At the time, Jones oversaw 11% of all big Chapter 11 bankruptcies annually.
The U.S. Trustee’s office, which serves as the Justice Department’s bankruptcy watchdog, had also flagged concerns about “the propriety of Judge Jones’ role” in the restructuring of Tehum Care Services due to his undisclosed involvement with Freeman. Going forward, other cases she and her firm participated in could also face renewed scrutiny.
With Judge Jones’ resignation and the conclusion of the ethics complaint on November 15th, the matter was resolved through his departure from the federal bench, bringing the oversight process to an end.
David R. Jones was appointed to the United States Bankruptcy Court, Southern District of Texas on September 30, 2011, and became the court’s chief judge in 2015. Before his appointment, Jones was a partner with Porter Hedges, where he worked in the creditors’ rights, bankruptcy, and restructuring group.
A copy of the original filing can be found here.