On May 1, 2004, Elaine Jones officially stepped down as president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund.

While liberal legions may throw rose petals at her feet, it should be noted that Jones retires (read resigns) under duress. Unlike the two ladies in the “Wizard of Oz” who abruptly surrendered their careers (one due to houses from Kansas falling from the sky, the other because of splashing water), Jones’ career was abruptly derailed because she was unceremoniously caught with her hands in proverbial cookie jar of influence and manipulation.

Jones, it must be remembered, was exposed, in what has become known as “memogate.” She contacted Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., in April of 2002, seeking to direct that he delay the confirmation of judicial nominee Julia Scott Gibbons. Which is argued to be a breach of Rule 3.5 of the Virginia State Bar Rules of Professional Conduct.

Her reason: Gibbons was about to be appointed to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, and while Jones and other liberal groups had designated her as non-controversial, there was one problem. Gibbons under 6th Circuit rules would have been able to review the case Jones was the lead counsel in and vote on it. That case was the University of Michigan affirmative-action case.

Because of Jones’ alleged unjust influence into the senate judicial nominees procedure, qualified students must be prepared to be passed over for less qualified students, so as to have an aesthetically pleasing representation of races – never mind the onus this places on the less-qualified student (that is a column for another day).

Thanks to the Center for Individual Freedom, the Congress of Racial Equality, the Coalition for a Fair Judiciary and Project 21, a complaint was filed against Jones with the Virginia State Bar. It is well-considered opinion that it is specifically for this reason alone that Jones is summarily surrendering her position.

In what is certain to be the most bitter of presidential elections, why else would she step down now? Why else would she step down when an almost certain quid pro quo of a federal judgeship or even a high-court nomination to counterbalance Justice Clarence Thomas was surely in her future?

Jones has been lauded for defending prisoners on death row early in her career. An unarguably noble cause, especially for liberal trial lawyers trying to earn their wings (or horns – you decide). And while I am unapologetically anti-death penalty, I am forced to ask how many families of the victims of those on death row has she defended?

Additionally, Jones is closely associated with Kemba Smith, a 24-year-old woman sentenced to a mandatory 24.5 years without parole for her involvement in a Northern Virginia drug ring. But it should be remembered that Smith was pardoned by Bill Clinton as he left office in 2000 at the behest of Jones. Can there be any sane person who doesn’t smell quid pro quo in this somewhere?

That being said, it must also be noted that Clinton made 140 11th-hour pardons as he left office. Including the international fugitive Marc David Rich, with whose wife he had a curiously close relationship. And whose wife contributed large sums of money to Clinton interests. He also pardoned Susan McDougal, who served time in prison, rather than testify against Clinton during his impeachment proceedings. Clinton also pardoned convicted cocaine dealers (his brother included) and those convicted of conspiring to supply false documents to the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

So, in the broad scheme of things, Smith’s pardon was not so spectacular – especially since Clinton needed money for his library, but I digress.

Smith is just another drug dealer deemed victim, who blamed everyone but herself for her arrest. Neither she nor Jones offered apologies for the lives she helped ruin, the homes she helped make parentless, the children who are in foster homes because their parents are addicted to drugs or the neighborhoods that are urban wastelands because of drugs and drug-related crime.

It has been said Jones is responsible for attacking institutional racism. I would argue what is the elevating of one marginally qualified – if at all – at the expense of the qualified, if not a form of institutional racism?

I would ask in the day and age of Enron, Tyco, Martha Stewart and Global Crossings: What does Jones’ blatant attempt to [allegedly] influence the outcome of a trial say to young people? What example does it give?

Jones is neither hero nor advocate supreme – she is just another criminal with a law degree who ducked the falling house from Kansas, sidestepped the water, but got caught by a memo.

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