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House passes bill to expedite financial disclosures from judges

A couple and their dog traverse the East Front Plaza of the U.S. Capitol on Thursday, October 7, 2021.
Greg Nash

The House on Wednesday overwhelmingly approved a bill that will expedite financial disclosures from judges.

The chamber passed the Courthouse Ethics and Transparency Act in a 422-4 vote, with just four Republicans voting against the legislation. Seven lawmakers did not vote at all.

The bill, which was introduced in the lower chamber in October, would revise the Ethics in Government Act of 1978 by requiring that federal judges report securities transactions that are worth over $1,000 within 45 days.

It would also instruct the administrative office of the U.S. Courts to create an online, searchable database where federal judges would post their financial disclosure forms within 90 days of them being filed.

Under current law, federal judges are only required to submit annual reports in May of the following reporting year, and they are not mandated to submit regular stock-trade reports, according to The Wall Street Journal.

In essence, the legislation seeks to hold federal judges to the same reporting standards that the president, vice president, presidential-appointed administration officials and congressional lawmakers are mandated to follow under the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act, or STOCK Act.

A companion bill is currently under consideration in the Senate after being introduced in October, but it has not yet received a committee vote, according to Reuters. That legislation is spearheaded by Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Chris Coons (D-Del.).

The push for the legislation on Capitol Hill came after an investigation by the Journal published in September found that 131 federal judges violated federal law when presiding over lawsuits that were connected to companies they had a financial stake in.

Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), a co-sponsor of the bill, said the legislation “makes incremental but necessary progress toward accountability by building on federal statutes that prohibit judges from deciding cases in which they have a personal financial stake in the outcome.”

“Transparency and ethics are vital to the integrity of the judiciary and maintaining the public’s trust in our courts; however, recent reporting has shown that our federal judiciary has operated with much secrecy and minimal accountability for far too long,” he said in a statement.

“The simple, long-overdue solutions included in this bill will bring necessary transparency to our nation’s courts, and will help ensure judges remain impartial and cases are decided fairly,” he added.

Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas), another co-sponsor of the legislation, said the passage of the bill “is a great step in providing parity to the Judiciary and putting Judges on par with the Executive and Legislative branch’s public financial disclosure rules.”

“Trust in our judicial system demands clear impartiality of the judges,” he added in a statement.

Tags Chip Roy Chris Coons federal judiciary financial disclosure Jerrold Nadler Jerry Nadler John Cornyn
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