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U.S. District Judge Okla Jones II Dead of Leukemia

January 10, 1996

NEW ORLEANS (AP) _ U.S. District Judge Okla Jones II, who dealt a major setback to the nation’s cigarette makers in a ruling on a lawsuit last year, has died of leukemia. He was 50.

Jones, who died Monday of leukemia at Ochsner Foundation Hospital, was New Orleans’ first black city attorney, from 1986 to 1990. He left that job to run for a state Civil District Court seat, which he won in 1991 and held until his appointment to the federal bench by President Clinton in 1994.

``His untimely death represents a great loss to our justice system and our community,″ said U.S. Rep. Bill Jefferson.

Jones’ ruling that a civil lawsuit brought against seven major cigarette makers qualifies as a class action would mean that almost anyone who has ever smoked cigarettes _ as well as survivors of dead smokers _ conceivably could be plaintiffs in the lawsuit. The lawsuit was filed in New Orleans by a group of lawyers on behalf of all smokers.

An appeal of Jones’ ruling is pending.

Jones’ death prompted immediate speculation over whether his replacement on the case would be as tough on the tobacco companies as Jones was perceived to have been. But Judge Morey Sear, chief judge for the Eastern Federal Judicial District of Louisiana, said it was too early to worry about who will replace him on the tobacco litigation, which could cost the industry billions of dollars if the plaintiffs win.

Sear said he will call a meeting of the federal judges in New Orleans and seek their counsel on how to replace Jones on the tobacco case. ``Nothing’s going to happen to delay the case,″ he said.

A native of Natchitoches, Jones was a graduate of Southern University in Baton Rouge, and held a law degree from Boston College.

He also worked as an attorney for the Orleans Indigent Defender Program, as director of Tulane University Law School’s employment discrimination clinic and project director of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights.

Survivors include his wife, Carolyn Jones; a son, Okla Jarred Jones III; his father, Henry Jones Sr.; a brother; two sisters, and his grandparents.

A funeral will be held Thursday at Tulane Memorial Baptist Church.

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