Sexism, Insulting Attacks, Demeaning
Lynn Nettleton Hughes, 80, is known for some of his controversial actions.
“The story goes, Judge Hughes was nominated by Ronald Reagan right after the President woke up from a nap,” a San Antonio attorney told me. “He was a great president, but he was not quite awake when he made that decision.”
It’s true, Hughes became a judge on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas after his
nomination by President Reagan on October 16, 1985. It was a seat vacated by Robert O`Conor, Jr. Hughes was confirmed by the Senate on December 16, 1985, and received commission on December 17, 1985.
Last week, Hughes tossed out a historical case filed by 117 employees of Houston Methodist Hospital over the health system’s COVID-19 vaccination mandate. The order to get the jab or lose their job, marked the first decision of its kind by a court regarding such a requirement at a health system.
Jared Woodfill, attorney for the employees, vowed to take the case to the Supreme Court if necessary. If appealed, it may not be the first time an upper court overruled Hughes. The judge is accustomed to controversy.
History of Controversies
🔵In 1994, Hughes publically called U.S. immigration officers “flunkies” and “brown shirts,” because of their actions in a passport fraud case.
🔵Upon dismissing the indictment in a case titled United States v. Swenson, Judge Hughes sharply criticized a female prosecutor on the case, saying “It was a lot simpler when you guys wore dark suits white shirts and navy ties . . . we didn’t let girls do it in the old days.”
The Fifth Circuit reversed, and stated that Judge Hughes’ comments were “demeaning, inappropriate and beneath the dignity of a federal judge.”
🔵When a mother used a company for discrimination against her based on her sex because she wanted to pump breast milk, Judge Hughes explained that breastfeeding is not covered by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.
In the ruling, Hughes writes, “Even if the company’s claim that she was fired for abandonment is meant to hide the real reason – she wanted to pump breast milk – lactation is not pregnancy, childbirth or a related medical condition. She gave birth on Dec. 11, 2009. After that day, she was no longer pregnant and her pregnancy-related conditions ended. Firing someone because of lactation or breast-pumping is not sex discrimination.”
Hughes was overruled by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.
🔵In 2016, Geoffrey Corn, a professor at South Texas College of Law, said in one case, Hughes embarrassed the prosecutors, who were not named in a ruling, “but there doesn’t seem to be anything of professional consequence to his order.”
“It is just a slap in the face, is what it is,” Corn said. “When you are a judge, you get the prerogative of saying what you feel and putting it in a Ruling of Ineptitude,” he continued. “I’ve never seen anything like that.”
🔵 In a very rare instance, the Fifth Circuit had to reassign a major criminal case, U.S. v. Khan, on appeal. This was totally due given the bias displayed by Judge Hughes in the trial court proceedings. Hughes engaged in personally insulting conduct, attacking individual attorneys for the federal government, which caused the Fifth Circuit to conclude that his behavior “reveal[ed] a level of prejudice” that was unacceptable for a federal judge.