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Bipartisan lawmakers target judges’ stock trading with new bill

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A bipartisan group of lawmakers is set to unveil a bill that will establish new requirements for federal judges to report their stock trades and publish financial disclosure forms online.

The bill, dubbed the Courthouse Ethics and Transparency Act, seeks to require that federal judges report stock trades over $1,000 within 45 days, according to The Wall Street Journal.

It would also direct the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts to establish an online database where federal judges post their financial-disclosure forms online within 90 days. The information will have to be in “a full-text searchable, sortable, and downloadable format for access by the public,” according to the Journal.

Overall, the legislation, which will be introduced as soon as Monday, will subject federal judges to the same stock reporting standards that apply to the president, vice president, presidential-appointed administration officials and congressional lawmakers under the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act, commonly referred to as the STOCK Act.

Bankruptcy and magistrate judges will not be required to abide by the Courthouse Ethics and Transparency Act, according to the Journal.

The proposed legislation comes after an investigation by the Journal published last month found that 131 federal judges broke federal law by presiding over lawsuits that involved companies they had a financial stake in.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), a sponsor of the bill, said the legislation will ensure that judges are overseeing cases in a fair manner.

“This legislation would subject federal judges to the same disclosure requirements of other federal officials so we can be sure litigants are protected from conflicts of interest and cases are decided fairly,” Cornyn said, according to the Journal.

Other sponsors of the bill are Sens. Chris Coons (D-Del.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill), John Kennedy (R-La.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa).

Reps. Deborah Ross (D-N.C.) and Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) will sponsor a companion bill in the House, according to the Journal, citing congressional aides.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) is also eyeing another bill that targets federal judges and their stock trades.

That legislation, dubbed the 21st Century Courts Act, will likely call for sanctions for judges who have recusal violations, according to the Journal.

Nadler introduced a similar bill in 2020 that sought to require that judges’ financial-disclosure forms be published online, the newspaper noted. That legislation, however, was swept under the rug during the pandemic.

While judges are allowed to own stocks, a federal law that has been in place since 1974 does not allow judges to deliberate over cases that relate to a party in which they, their spouses or minor children have a “legal or equitable interest, however small,” according to the Journal.

Infractions of that law, however, rarely go public, the newspaper noted.

Financial disclosure forms of judges are currently filed on an annual basis in May, according to the Journal.

Tags Chris Coons Chuck Grassley Darrell Issa Dick Durbin Financial transparency Jerrold Nadler John Cornyn John Kennedy Judicial conflict of interest Sheldon Whitehouse

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