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Lawmakers Accuse US Judges of Bias in Hiring Law Clerk Accused of Racism

November 11, 2021 by Tom Ramstack
Chief Justice John Roberts arrives for the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

WASHINGTON — Democratic members of Congress are asking for an investigation of two federal judges who hired a law clerk they say has a “history of nakedly racist and hateful conduct.”

Seven members of the House Judiciary Committee wrote a letter this week to Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts calling into question whether the judges could be considered unbiased after they hired the clerk.

The clerk is the former national field director for the conservative student activist group Turning Point USA who is known to have texted a colleague with the message, “I hate Black people.”

Although the letter called the law clerk only “the individual,” previous news reports about Turning Point USA identified her as Crystal Clanton, a law student at George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School.

She recently was hired by U.S. District Judge Corey Maze and appeals court Judge William Pryor for a prestigious clerkship at the federal court in Birmingham, Alabama, beginning in 2023.

“That these judges hired her therefore creates both the appearance of and risk of actual bias in their chambers and their decisions as well as other potential problems,” says the letter led by Reps. Jerrold Nadler and Hank Johnson.

They argue that minorities could not trust they would receive equal justice before Pryor and Maze, particularly in civil rights cases.

Other allegations against Clanton in the congressmen’s letter say:

  • She would “exchange racist remarks regularly” with her coworkers.
  • She sent a photo to at least two coworkers of a man with brown skin with the caption, “[j]ust thinking about ways to do another 9/11.”
  • She and her coworkers would often send similar anti-Muslim messages that included remarks like “a bacon a day keeps the Islams away” and “Ramadan bombathon,” as well as tak[e] pictures of their heads wrapped in towels to mock head coverings commonly worn by Arabs, according to sources who received the messages.
  • She fired her organization’s only Black employee on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.  That employee later stated that Turning Point USA was a “racist” workplace and that she felt “very uncomfortable working there because I was Black.”

When The New Yorker magazine published a story about Turning Point USA in 2017 and the hateful messages Clanton allegedly wrote, it quoted her saying she could not recall them and that they “do not reflect what I believe or who I am.”

In addition to Roberts, the congressmen’s letter was addressed to Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Charles Wilson. The Eleventh Circuit includes Alabama.

The letter signed by seven lawmakers requested a response by Dec. 1. Turning Point USA describes itself on its website as a “nonprofit organization whose mission is to identify, educate, train, and organize students to promote freedom.”

Tom can be reached at [email protected]

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