Texas Civil Rights Project accuses Judge Lynn Hughes of making racist comments in court

February 6, 2013 4:45:34 PM PST
A longtime federal judge who's no stranger to controversy now faces new criticism over comments one civil rights group is claiming were racist.

A law blog featuring Judge Lynn Hughes has resulted in a call for his resignation.

The Texas Civil Rights Project filed a complaint Tuesday with the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. They are claiming judicial misconduct and asking for the judge to resign.

Inside the Bob Casey Federal Courthouse in Houston last November, Judge Lynn Hughes was hearing pretrial testimony in the case of a former state employee who claimed he was discriminated against when he was laid off. What Hughes said then caused the man's attorney to ask for his recusal.

"Considering that he is a judge -- a United States federal judge in a courtroom -- it is entirely inappropriate," said Amin Alehashem with the Texas Civil Rights Project.

Alehashem admits he wasn't at the hearing, but says he's poured over transcripts from it. He says Judge Hughes at one point quoted Eleanor Roosevelt, saying "staffs of one color always work better together."

In a discussion about hiring practices, Alehashem says Hughes also appeared to make fun of those hired to promote diversity, allegedly asking, "What does a diversity director do? Go around and paint students different colors so that they would think they were mixed?"

Alehashem claims neither statement has a place in court.

"His clearly stated beliefs and opinions about race and religion are now bleeding into his judicial decision-making authority," Alehashem said.

Federal judges are appointed for life. Unlike state judges, they never have to worry about re-election or public opinion.

KTRK legal analyst Joel Androphy says federal judges are given wide latitude in their actions from the bench.

"This is trial. Trial is about having your views being challenged," Androphy said.

Androphy has tried many cases before Hughes. He says Hughes is outspoken and will challenge the attorneys, noting that -- in his opinion -- Hughes usually is a great supporter of individual rights. Androphy says he has always felt Hughes was fair.

Hughes did not return our calls and emails seeking comment. It is the policy of federal judges not to talk about pending cases.

If the appeals court confirms any misconduct, Hughes could be publicly or privately censured or could be impeached.

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