The Center for Public Integrity just released its findings of a study investigating state supreme court justices' financial disclosures. Tellingly, not one state received a grade A or B. The top scorer was California with a grade of C; for the states represented in the Third Circuit, the results were not even C-worthy.
Here is a breakdown of the Third Circuit states' rankings.
Pennsylvania passed, but barely. With a score of 60 out of 100, it had the lowest, passing grade, a D. Though its total score was passing, Pennsylvania scored very low, and failed, in the areas of disclosing investments, liabilities, and accessibility of financial disclosures. On the flip side, Pennsylvania scored highly in the areas of disclosing non-investment income, disclosing gifts/reimbursements, and accountability.
Delaware ranked number 38, with a failing F grade. It failed in every category except one: accountability. Otherwise, it failed in these areas: disclosing non-investment income, investments, gifts/reimbursements, liabilities, and accessibility.
The lowest of the three states in the Third Circuit, New Jersey also failed with an F grade, and ranked number 39, just below Delaware. New Jersey failed in all categories except one: disclosure of non-investment income. But its passing score in one category could not boost the low scores it received in these categories: disclosure of investments, gifts/reimbursements, liabilities, accessibility, and accountability.
In the report, New Jersey had the added achievement as being highlighted among 12 states with "only self-policing mechanisms to enforce disclosure rules for their top state judges." In addition, it was spotlighted in the study, along with New York, as having the highest threshold ($1000) for reporting gifts. Most disturbingly, "the Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct ask permission of the Supreme Court to investigate if a Supreme Court member's ethics are questioned," reports NJ.com.
Fortunately, as far as federal practice goes, the federal judiciary topped the list with a grade of B. They scored low in certain areas because the disclosures are not available online, and they report investments in ranges, rather than exact amounts.
While there are concerns about privacy, phishing and identity theft, these concerns need to be weighed against potential conflicts of interest. In order to function properly, our judiciary should not have financial stakes in the outcome of litigation.
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