Southern District Judge Barbara S. Jones (See Profile) is retiring after 17 years on the bench. Jones, 65, a Clinton appointee, will be joining Zuckerman Spaeder on Jan. 14 as a partner specializing in monitorships, internal investigations and compliance work.
Jones, a Temple University School of Law graduate, began her legal career in 1973 working as a special attorney in organized crime and racketeering in the U.S. Justice Department’s Criminal Division, a role that also included the Manhattan strike force against organized crime and racketeering. She became a federal prosecutor in the Southern District in 1977, rising to become chief of the general crimes unit in 1983 and the chief of the organized crime unit from 1984 to 1987. She was first assistant district attorney in New York County from 1987 to 1995.
Jones handled a series of high-profile cases while on the federal bench. She ruled in 2001 that banks issuing Visa and Mastercard violated antitrust law by maintaining exclusionary rules against American Express and Discover. She presided over the 2005 trial of WorldCom co-founder and CEO Bernie Ebbers, who was convicted of orchestrating and covering up a fraud that cost investors $100 billion. Jones sentenced Ebbers to serve 25 years in prison.
One of the biggest cases in Jones’ career came last year when she ruled for plaintiff Edie Windsor and struck down the portion of the federal Defense of Marriage Act that defined marriage solely as union between a man and a woman. Jones found the law violated the Equal Protection Clause in discriminating against same-sex married couples, a ruling that was upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and is now before the U.S. Supreme Court.
“It’s been wonderful,” Jones said Friday, her last day on the bench. “When I began, there were any number of great judges who were very generous mentors to me.”
“I can’t imagine a better job than this,” she said. “You have power and it’s daunting and you have to be extremely careful with it, because you can do a tremendous amount of good as well.”
Paul Shechtman, a partner at Zuckerman Spaeder who worked with Jones in the district attorney’s office, said on Friday that this is “the happiest of reunions with a person whose friendship I value and judgment I trust.”