Who Is Edith Brown Clement?

ByABC News
July 19, 2005, 7:54 AM

July 19, 2005 — -- Edith Brown Clement, 57, is a judge on the New Orleans-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit.

She was born in 1948 in Birmingham, Ala. A graduate of the University of Alabama and Tulane University Law School, Clement, who goes by the name Joy, was a lawyer in private practice in New Orleans for 16 years before being appointed a federal district judge in 1991. She was nominated in 2001 by President George W. Bush, and confimed by the Senate, to a seat on the Fifth Circuit.

Clement is a devout Catholic and attends Holy Name church in New Orleans.

She is hard to place on the ideological spectrum, something that many say will help her in the confirmation process. She has not authored any controversial opinions, and rarely hints at her beliefs on hot topics in writings or in speeches off the bench. When asked about abortion at her 2001 confirmation hearings for the federal bench, she said: "The Supreme Court has clearly held that the right to privacy includes the right to have an abortion."

Her 2004 vote to join a scathing dissent from a decision to block the building of a shopping mall on a site inhabited by six endangered insect species was applauded by small-government libertarians, and criticized by environmentalists. Other decisions have not been controversial.

In private practice, Clement specialized in civil litigation, especially maritime law, where she represented oil companies, insurance companies and the marine services industry in cases before federal courts. She is a member of the Federalist Society, an influential conservative legal organization.

As a district judge, Clement presided over such high-profile cases as the 2000 trials of former Louisiana Gov. Edwin W. Edwards and former State Insurance Commissioner Jim Brown -- both Democrats -- on fraud charges. Edwards was acquitted; Brown was convicted of lying to the FBI and sentenced to six months in prison.

She is married to Rutledge Clement, who was one of the top lawyers in New Orleans until suffering a stroke at a Halloween party 11 years ago. After being declared clinically dead for 10 days, he has recovered to the point where he able to drive and speak.

They have two children: Carter, who recently graduated from Princeton University, and Lainier, who will be a high school senior this fall.