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Top US bankruptcy judge steps down amidst ethics investigation, according to Reuters report.

Top US Bankruptcy Judge Resigns Amid Ethics Inquiry

Resignation of Judge David Jones

U.S. bankruptcy Judge David Jones in Houston has resigned after an ethics probe was initiated by a federal appeals court. The probe was prompted by the revelation of a previously undisclosed romantic relationship between Judge Jones and an attorney whose firm had cases before his court. This relationship led to questions regarding the integrity of his court, effectively ending his tenure as the busiest bankruptcy judge in the U.S.

Resignation Effective November 15

Chief U.S. District Judge Randy Crane of the Southern District of Texas confirmed that Jones resigned, effective from November 15. Prior to his resignation, Jones had already recused himself from overseeing large bankruptcy cases and reassigned them to two other judges. Neither Jones nor his courtroom deputy has provided any comment regarding the situation.

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Formal Misconduct Complaint

The New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a formal misconduct complaint against Jones on Friday. The complaint arose after Jones revealed his romantic relationship with bankruptcy attorney Elizabeth Freeman. Freeman was previously a partner at Jackson Walker, a local law firm that filed numerous cases in Jones’ Houston courthouse. The 5th Circuit stated that Jones had kept this personal relationship hidden from two other judges involved in a dispute related to bankrupt energy company McDermott International.

Potential Impact on Cases

Ethics experts have expressed concerns about the undisclosed relationship and its implications on the integrity of Jones’ court. The misconduct complaint has already led to a call for further review in the case of Tehum Care Services, a bankrupt affiliate of prison healthcare company Corizon. Similar challenges may arise in other cases involving Freeman or Jackson Walker. Jackson Walker, while declining to comment on the resignation, has stated that they acted responsibly once the allegation came to light.

Repercussions on Jones’ Role

The office of the U.S. Trustee, responsible for overseeing bankruptcies, has raised questions about the propriety of Jones’ involvement in the Tehum case. Jones served as a mediator during the bankruptcy negotiations, in which Freeman also participated. Jones has been the most active bankruptcy judge in the U.S. since January 2016, overseeing a significant number of Chapter 11 bankruptcies with liabilities exceeding $100 million.

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The resignation of Judge David Jones following an ethics inquiry has raised concerns about the integrity of his court. The undisclosed romantic relationship with an attorney whose firm had cases before his court has led to a formal misconduct complaint. The impact of this revelation on ongoing and future cases remains uncertain. The U.S. Trustee’s office has already voiced concerns about Jones’ involvement in a specific bankruptcy case. The resignation of such a prominent bankruptcy judge has undoubtedly sent shockwaves throughout the legal community.

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