Weekly Spotlight: Judges are Failing to Disclose Luxury Trips, Too

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Through a series of shocking investigations last year, we learned that sitting Supreme Court justices had made a habit of accepting and failing to report expensive gifts and free luxury trips from "friendly" benefactors.

Apparently, they’re not the only ones who don’t recognize the clear ethics violation at hand.

An NPR investigation published this week revealed dozens of incidents in which federal judges failed to disclose all-expenses-paid luxury trips to judicial conferences. According to NPR, many of these convenings featured talks and presentations with “ideological content,” including a presentation from a far-right German politician who has been known to espouse racist and xenophobic rhetoric and an energy company CEO who is “suing the federal government over financial regulations.”

The judiciary code of conduct and federal ethics law not only bring into question the propriety of these trips but also, at bare minimum, require judges to disclose gifts like these. The pattern of some federal judges' failure to recognize how their participation in these sorts of activities — and certainly their failure to report these trips — once again spotlights serious ethics problems in the courts. The public should be able to have utmost trust in the independence and integrity of our judicial branch: The legitimacy of the institution depends on it. But right now, there’s no good reason to think we can.



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Joe Spielberger, Policy Counsel, in Spotlight PA