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John E. Jones

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This page is about the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania judge. For other judges with this name, please see John Jones.
John E. Jones
Current Court Information:
United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania
Title:   Judge
Position:   Seat #1
Station:   Willamsport, PA
Appointed by:   George W. Bush
Approval vote:   96-0
Active:   07/31/2002 - Present
Preceded by:   James McClure
Personal History
Born:   1955
Hometown:   Pottsville, PA
Undergraduate:   Dickinson College, B.A., 1977
Law School:   Dickinson Law, J.D., 1980
John E. Jones, III is a federal judge for the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. He joined the court in 2002 after being nominated by President George W. Bush.

Early life and education

A native Pennsylvanian, Jones graduated from Dickinson College with his bachelor's degree in 1977 and his Juris Doctor degree in 1980.[1]

Professional career

Jones spent his entire pre-judicial legal career as a private practice attorney licensed in the State of Pennsylvania from 1980 to 2002, where he worked in the following positions:

  • 1995-2002: Chairman, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board
  • 1993-2002: Director, Union Bank and Trust Company
  • 1984-1995: Part-time Assistant Public Defender, Pennsylvania Public Defender's Office
  • 1980-2002: Executive officer, Phoenix Contracting Co. & Affiliated Corporations
  • 1980-1984: Part-time law clerk for Judge Guy Bowe of the Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas[1]

Judicial career

Middle District of Pennsylvania

On the unanimous recommendation of Pennsylvania U.S. Senators Rick Santorum and Arlen Specter, Jones was nominated by President George W. Bush on February 28, 2002, to a seat vacated by James McClure as McClure assumed senior status. Jones was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on July 29, 2002, on an unopposed 96-0 vote and received commission on July 31, 2002.[1][2]

Notable cases

Pennsylvania same-sex marriage challenge (2013-2014)

     United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania (Whitewood, et al v. Wolf, et al, Case 1:2013cv01861)

On July 9, 2013, in the wake of the United States Supreme Court decision in U.S. v. Windsor, the Pennsylvania ACLU filed suit on behalf of 23 plaintiffs in an attempt to strike the state's ban on gay marriage, alleging that it violated the equal protection and due process clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. In May 2014, Judge Jones permanently barred the State of Pennsylvania from denying same-sex couples marriage licenses.[3] Judge Jones did not issue a stay on his ruling pending appeal, instead writing:
By virtue of this ruling, same-sex couples who seek to marry in Pennsylvania may do so, and already married same-sex couples will be recognized as such in the Commonwealth.[4]

—John E. Jones[5]

Attorney General Kathleen Kane notably refused to defend the state's law, leaving Pennsylvania Governor Thomas Corbett to step in to handle the task. A motion to dismiss was filed where the state argued that under the United States Supreme Court's decision in Baker v. Nelson, a federal court lacked jurisdiction over the state's law. On November 15, 2013, Judge Jones denied the motion, rejecting the notion that the 1972 decision cited by the state left federal courts powerless. On December 9, 2013, the state requested permission to file an interlocutory appeal on the question of law to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, and Judge Jones denied that request on December 17, 2013.[6][7][8][9]

For more on cases involving same-sex marriage bans, see Same-sex marriage in the federal courts.

PA judges set back in retirement age debate (2013)

     United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania (Lerner, at al v. Corbett, et al, Case 1:12-cv-02577-JEJ)

In September 2013, Judge Jones dismissed a lawsuit filed by a group of Pennsylvania judges challenging the state's retirement age law. The judges argued mandatory retirement violates equal protection laws and subjects judges to age discrimination. Judge Jones did not comment on the constitutionality of the law, but found that only the citizens of the state have the authority to change the amendment to the Pennsylvania Constitution. This ruling seconds the outcome of a similar case in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. The plaintiff judges in the case appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, where the lower court opinion rendered by Judge Jones was affirmed.[10][11][12]

"Scopes II": Intelligent design on trial (2005)

     United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania (Tammy Kitzmiller, et al., v. Dover Area School District, et al.,, US 04cv2688)

In 2005, Jones presided over the case of Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District. This case was the first federal court challenge against a public school district that had required the teaching of intelligent design, a religious alternative to evolution. Judge Jones found for the plaintiff, and delivered a scathing rebuke to the school board, whom he stated had "poorly served" their district.[13][14]

Technological advances in the courtroom

Judge Jones was profiled in the April 19, 2010, edition of The Republican Herald since his chambers, along with the rest of the Middle District of Pennsylvania, was moving towards a paperless court. As the courthouse is renovated, every judge will have an electronic organizing system in which they can access each case with the click of a mouse. Jones said: "I can foresee in 10 years that every chamber will be like these chambers. We're predominantly bookless. We don't have huge files hanging around." The new system also allows judges to take their chambers on the road if they have to preside in a different court.[15]

See also

External links


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Federal Judicial Center, "Biography of John E. Jones" (dead link)
  2. United States Department of Justice Archive, "107th Congress - Confirmed Nominees," accessed April 30, 2014
  3., "Federal judge rules same-sex marriage ban in Pennsylvania is unconstitutional," May 20, 2014
  4. Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
  5. The New York Times, "Judge Strikes Down Pennsylvania's Gay Marriage Ban," May 20, 2014 accessed on May 22, 2014
  6. ABC 6 Action News, "Pennsylvania Attorney General won't defend gay marriage ban," July 11, 2013
  7. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "Pennsylvania gay marriage ban to face court test," November 15, 2013
  8. Philadelphia Inquirer, "Judge clears way for trial on Pa. gay marriage ban," November 17, 2013
  9. Associated Press, "Judge in Pa. gay marriage suit nixes state appeal," December 17, 2013
  10., "Challenge rejected to Pa. judges' age-70 retirement," September 24, 2013
  11. Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts, "PA Judges Lose Federal Challenge to Mandatory Retirement," September 25, 2013
  12., "U.S. Appeals Court backs Pa. judge retirement mandate," April 29, 2014
  13. Court document of the case, Case 4:04-cv-02688-JEJ (dead link)
  14. The Talk Origins Archive, "Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District; Dover, Pennsylvania Intelligent Design Case," September 28, 2006
  15. Republican Herald, "Federal Judge Jones' chambers, courtroom go paperless," April 19, 2010
Federal judicial offices
Preceded by:
James McClure
Middle District of Pennsylvania
Seat #1
Succeeded by:

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