Judge Bernard Jones – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma

The Federal Courthouse in Lawton, Oklahoma

Judge Bernard Jones, while only forty, has already been on the bench for seven years.  His level of experience, alongside a relatively moderate record, should ensure a comfortable confirmation.

Background

Bernard Maurice Jones II was born in Oklahoma City in 1979.[1]  Jones attended Southern Methodist University in Dallas, graduating with a B.A. in 2001.  He then attended Notre Dame Law School, graduating in 2004.

After graduating, Jones joined Porter Wright Morris & Arthur LLP as an Associate.[2]  In 2006, he moved to Oklahoma City to be an Associate at McAfee & Taft.  In 2008, Jones joined the Oklahoma City University of Law as an Associate Dean.

In 2012, Jones was appointed to be a District Judge in Oklahoma by Governor Mary Fallin.[3] In 2015, Jones became a federal magistrate judge on the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma.  He currently serves in that capacity.

History of the Seat

The seat Jones has been nominated for opened on July 1, 2019, with Judge Joe Heaton’s move to senior status.  Jones applied to fill the vacancy in February 2019.[4]  After interviews with Oklahoma Senators James Inhofe and James Lankford, as well as with the White House and the Department of Justice, Jones was selected as a nominee in July 2019.  Jones was officially nominated on October 17, 2019.

Political Activity

Jones’ only political record is as a campaign worker for Democrat Tony Sanchez, who was running for the Governor of Texas in 2002.[5]

Legal Experience

Jones’ litigation experience before he became a judge was relatively brief, consisting of his stints in private practice between 2004 and 2008.  In this time, Jones tried two cases before a judge and one before a jury.  His sole jury trial involved a fraud case concerning commercial real estate, which ended in a jury verdict against Jones’ client.[6]

Jurisprudence

Jones has served as a U.S. Magistrate Judge on the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma since 2015, and served as a state court judge from 2012 to 2015.  In his time on the bench, Jones has presided over approximately twenty cases that proceeded to verdict or judgment.

State Court

As a state court judge between 2012 and 2015, Jones handled both civil and criminal matters under Oklahoma law.  In one notable case, Jones was asked to order the replaying of the last sixty-four seconds of a high school football match in response to an alleged poor call by a referee.[7]  Jones ultimately denied an injunction in the case, finding that plaintiffs could not meet the extraordinary burden needed before requiring court intervention into high school football matches.[8] 

U.S. Magistrate Judge

As a U.S. Magistrate Judge, Jones oversaw pretrial detention and settlement matters, as well as offering recommendations to district court judges on substantive rulings.  In one case, Jones recommended that a plaintiff’s civil rights claims concerning denial of medical treatment be dismissed, which was accepted by the district court.[9]  The Tenth Circuit, however, reversed the dismissal, finding that the district court had erred in not allowing the plaintiff to amend his complaint.[10]

Writings

Jones has only one published article to his name.  In 2008, Jones wrote an opinion piece in favor of stricter bans of public smoking.[12]  The piece countered arguments that such bans infringed on people’s freedom, stating:

“We agree that freedom is of utmost importance, but the freedom we seek is for the 75 percent of Oklahomans who do not smoke.”[13]

Overall Assessment

Despite his youth and relative lack of litigation experience as an attorney, Jones is still likely to be an uncontroversial nominee.  This is partially because he has extensive judicial experience, but it is also because Jones has not made any high-profile rulings and has avoided associations with controversial stances.  As such, Jones is poised to join the Western District.


[1] Sen. Comm. on the Judiciary, 116th Cong., Bernard Jones: Questionnaire for Judicial Nominees 1.

[2] See id. at 2.

[3] Sheila Stogsdill, Fallin Names District Judge, The Daily Oklahoman, Sept. 18, 2012.

[4] Sen. Comm. on the Judiciary, 116th Cong., Bernard Jones: Questionnaire for Judicial Nominees 44-45.

[5] See id. at 34.

[6] Nudeal Enters. LLC v. Founder’s Tower Condos., LLC, CJ-2007-2454 (Okla. Cty. Dist. Ct. Mar. 26, 2007).

[7] Indep. Sch. Dist. No. I-89 of Okla. Cnty., Okla. v. Okla. Secondary School Activities Ass’n, CV-2014-2235 (Okla. Cty. Dist. Ct. Dec. 11, 2014).

[8] Scott Wright, Key Points in Judge Bernard Jones’ Ruling to Deny Douglass’ Injunction Request, The Daily Oklahoman, Dec. 11, 2014.

[9] See Gray v. GEO Group, Inc., 727 F. App’x 940 (10th Cir. 2018).

[10] See id.

[11] Campbell v. Jones, No. CIV-13-926-R, 2015 WL 3971674 (W.D. Okla. Mar. 31, 2015).

[12] Bernard Jones, Don’t Forget Nonsmoker’s Rights, The Oklahoman, Apr. 5, 2008.

[13] Id.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s