MARCH 22, 2007
To avoid a Congressional threat of imposing an inspector general on the judiciary, federal judges reluctantly created a rule last year to promptly report corporate-paid trips that may present a conflict-of-interest yet the disclosure rule has been completely ignored.
A series of embarrassing reports of federal judges presiding in cases that they had a financial interest in led to heated Congressional hearings in which lawmakers threatened to create a watchdog to police the judiciary. Over the years, many judges had accepted lavish trips and lodging to speak at private seminars funded by mystery corporations that they need not disclose.
That changed last September, however. At the Judicial Conference, a gathering of senior judges to make policy with regard to the administration of U.S. courts, Supreme Court Justice John Roberts issued new rules that specifically say judges must promptly report to the public their expense-paid trips. Supposedly, the judges are to disclose in advance who is financing their travel and upscale lodging.
Justice Roberts told the committee of senior judges that a strong, appropriate response was necessary to assure Congress and the public that the judiciary is committed to upholding the highest ethical standards and maintaining accountability.
The information is supposed to be available to the public through the Federal Judiciary’s web site. In an apparent compromise, the court’s administrative office has released information on 20 private seminars that have invited federal judges but the judges’ names are not included.
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