Bloomberg Law
Free Newsletter Sign Up
Bloomberg Law
Welcome
Go
Free Newsletter Sign Up

Judiciary Approves Own Approach on Judges’ Financial Disclosures

March 15, 2022, 7:06 PM

Financial disclosures submitted by judges would be more readily available under a plan authorized by the judiciary’s policymaking arm on Tuesday.

The online system approved by the Judicial Conference at its biannual meeting stops short of making all financial disclosures publicly available, and focuses instead on streamlining the process for getting information to those who request it.

Financial disclosures can be made public now, but they’re are not easily or quickly accessible.

The new approach differs from legislation pending in Congress that would require the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts to create an online searchable database for judges’ financial disclosures and upload the disclosures within 90 days of filing.

In a statement, the judiciary said the newly approved program would “allow immediate access to the reports without endangering filers or their families.”

Under the new policy, judges will request redaction of sensitive information on their report before submitting them, Judge Claire V. Eagan chair of the Judicial Conference’s executive committee, said on a call with reporters. That way the documents would be ready for the courts’ office to share immediately.

The old policy gave judges a window to redact sensitive information before it was released to those requesting the documents, Eagan said.

Legislation awaiting final action on Capitol Hill came after the Wall Street Journal reported 131 federal judges heard cases in involving a company in which they or a family member held stock.

In addition to the disclosure program, the Judicial Conference adopted a model statement that judges will have to sign at least twice a year that confirms they have reviewed their finances and amended its policy for conflict screening.

It also expanded the scope of a audio streaming pilot program by allowing courts participating to keep the recorded proceedings online for up to a year after the proceeding.

In a statement following the meeting, Gabe Roth, executive director of watchdog Fix the Court, said the judiciary’s acknowledgment of “deficiencies in accountability” and steps to improve are positives “in theory.”

The changes to online disclosures, conflict checks, increased live streaming announced by the Judicial Conference, however, “could become a years-long process with no guarantee of an appropriately transparent final outcome,” Roth said. He pointed to the importance of legislative proposals.

To contact the reporter on this story: Madison Alder in Washington at malder@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Seth Stern at sstern@bloomberglaw.com; John Crawley at jcrawley@bloomberglaw.com