Edith Brown Clement
Edith Brown Clement (born in Birmingham, Alabama, April 29, 1948) is a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. She was nominated to this seat on September 4, 2001, by George W. Bush, was confirmed by the Senate on November 13, 2001, and received commission on November 26, 2001. With the resignation of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor from the United States Supreme Court, Judge Clement has been mentioned by some pundits as one of the Potential nominees to the Supreme Court of the United States.
Clement was educated at the University of Alabama, receiving her B.A. in 1969, and at Tulane Law School, where she received a J.D. in 1972. Her early career included a period clerking for Judge Herbert W. Christenberry at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana ( 1973-1975 ), after which she worked in private practice in New Orleans, Louisiana until 1991.
On October 1, 1991 Clement was nominated to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana by George H.W. Bush. She was confirmed by the Senate to this post on November 21, 1991, and received commission on November 25, 1991. In 2001 she served as chief judge of this court, before being nominated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.
Judge Clement is a member of the Maritime Law Association of the United States, the Federal Bar Association, the American Law Institute, the Federalist Society, the Tulane Law School's Inn of Court, and the Committee on the Administrative Office of the Judicial Conference of the United States.
Judicial outlook and record
Clement doesn't provide much ammunition for opposition groups, but perhaps not much for conservatives to get excited about either. She hasn't written anything notable off the bench (or at least nothing that's come to light yet), and most of her judicial decisions have been in relatively routine and uncontroversial cases.
Civil Rights and Liberties
According to The Orlando Report, "MSNBC is reporting that Clement has acknowledged that Roe v. Wade is settled law and within the constitutionally protected right to privacy. She apparently stated this at her last confirmation hearing." Still, as Emily Bazelon wrote on July 5, 2005, for Slate, "There's little in the judicial opinions of short-listers Judge Edith Brown Clement (U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit) and Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson (U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit) to indicate their positions on abortion."
For a unanimous panel, allowed a plaintiff who sued the police for violating his right to due process to proceed with his claim that the officers who arrested him used excessive force when they allegedly injured him by slamming the door of their car against his head. Reversed the district court's finding that the plaintiff could also sue for unlawful arrest and excessive force involving the use of handcuffs. (Tarver v. City of Edna, 2005)
Environmental Protection and Property Rights
Voted for the 5th Circuit to rehear a decision blocking developers from building on a site where six endangered bug species lived in a cluster of limestone caves. Clement joined a dissent that argued that the decision's rationale for protecting the bugs—to preserve the interdependent web of species—bore no relationship to Congress' power to regulate interstate commerce. In July 2005, Mark Schleifstein of the New Orleans Times-Picayune wrote of Clement's decision in this case: "(Clement) did join a stinging dissent saying her fellow judges over-reached in applying the Endangered Species Act to protect insects found in a cave, in a case that blocked development of a Texas shopping mall. The Supreme Court recently declined an appeal of that decision." (GDF Realty Investments v. Norton, 2004)
For a unanimous panel, rejected the claim of a man flying to Nigeria that his luggage was unlawfully searched at the border. Clement ruled broadly that customs inspectors need not have probable cause to search the bags of people who are leaving the country. (U.S. v. Odutayo, 2005)
Agreed with a unanimous panel that an asylum applicant who was 20 minutes late to a hearing because he'd taken the wrong highway exit should not have been ordered deported in absentia and was entitled to a new hearing. (Alarcon-Chavez v. Gonzales, 2005)
Over a dissent, ruled that a death-row inmate who claimed to be mentally retarded was entitled to a lawyer to develop that claim in a habeas petition. Clement's ruling followed the Supreme Court's 2002 decision barring the execution of the mentally retarded. She followed up with a second opinion that limited the significance of her ruling by stating "this is a fact-bound case." (Hearn v. Dretke, 2004)
For a unanimous panel, reversed a decision of the district court finding that a police officer convicted of civil rights violation, for hitting a drunk suspect in the head with his baton, was entitled to a new trial because his lawyer was ineffective. The officer argued that his lawyer erred by failing to call character witnesses to rebut testimony that he'd complained about the need to control Mexicans in the United States. Clement said the rebuttal evidence would have been irrelevant because the officer was not charged with a hate crime. (U.S. v. Harris, 2005)
Over a partial dissent, in reviewing a jury verdict in favor of a man whose wife and 3-year-old daughter were killed in a car crash, affirmed damage awards of $1.9 million for the man's loss of his wife and $1.5 million for the loss of his daughter. Reduced from $200,000 to $30,000 an award to the wife's estate for her pain and mental anguish before her death and eliminated a $200,000 award to the daughter's estate for her pain and mental anguish. (Vogler v. Blackmore, 2003)
Corporate Law and Business Interests
In a July 2005 article for CNN/Money, reporter Krysten Crawford wrote that Clement was one of three rumored replacements for Justice O'Connor who could possibly provide a sympathetic ear to big business because of her experience as a private practitioner. Additionally, some analysts believe a Clement appointment could influence the court to decide more cases critical to business interests.
In a November 2004 article he wrote for The New Republic Online, author Jeffrey Rosen identified Clement as one of four possible O'Connor replacements (the other three being Samuel Alito, Jr., Janice Rogers Brown, and Emilio Garza) who was "troubling." While Rosen opined that Clement may seem to be an appealing stealth candidate for the high court because she has written little, "everything about her record suggests she is an enthusiastic supporter of the Constitution in Exile" -- a term Rosen uses to describe the practice of enforcing limits on federal power, in part through narrow interpretation of the Constitution. "In the absence of more information about her," writes Rosen, "Senate Democrats should approach Clement with caution."
Material on this page is taken or adapted from the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Legal Policy, and from the Fifth Circuit Library System of the United States Court of Appeals, both public domain sources.
- Fifth Circuit Library System of the United States Court of Appeals
- U.S. Department of Justice Office of Legal Policy
- The Supreme Court Shortlist - Slate magazine, Friday, July 1, 2005