Federal judges’ financial conflicts add to mistrust of the judicial system

Zero Accountability over 700 Judges Violations of Law on Conflicts

A recent Wall Street Journal investigation found that over the last decade, 131 federal judges failed to recuse themselves in hundreds of cases that involved their own financial interests. Chief Justice of the Supreme Court John Roberts, in his year-end review of the federal judiciary, said the report’s findings indicate a “serious problem of inadequate ethics training,” especially for those judges who had numerous violations. The conflicts of interest primarily include judges hearing cases involving their or their families’ stock holdings, which ultimately tainted some 685 court cases. Given the rising concerns that the federal judiciary is becoming increasingly politicized, the newspaper’s findings are deeply troubling, says Martha Davis, university distinguished professor of law at Northeastern, adding that the violations only “compound the lack of trust that the federal judiciary seems to be breeding.” “What’s at stake here is a lot,” Davis says. “We have a judiciary for various reasons already losing the trust of the American people, and the evidence that federal judges are hearing cases that they have a direct financial interest in only makes things worse.” One of the primary mechanisms for alerting the courts about potential… Read More

131 federal judges oversaw cases involving companies in which they or their families owned stock

More than 130 federal judges broke the law and violated ethics by hearing cases involving companies they had a financial interest in over 11 years

A Wall Street Journal investigation has found that 131 federal judges oversaw 685 court cases in the last decade involving companies in which they or their families owned stock. The conflict is a violation of U.S. law and judicial ethics, the newspaper reported. “Nothing bars judges from owning stocks,” the newspaper reported, “but federal law since 1974 has prohibited judges from hearing cases that involve a party in which they, their spouses or their minor children have a ‘legal or equitable interest, however small.’ That law and the Judicial Conference of the U.S., which is the federal courts’ policymaking body, require judges to avoid even the appearance of a conflict.” About two-thirds of the identified judges ruled in favor of their financial interests when deciding contested motions, the newspaper said. The judges were appointed by Democratic and Republican presidents. “Judges offered a variety of explanations for the violations,” the newspaper reported. “Some blamed court clerks. Some said their recusal lists had misspellings that foiled the conflict-screening software. Some pointed to trades that resulted in losses. Others said they had only nominal roles, such as confirming settlements or transferring cases to… Read More