Fix the Court is calling on the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts (AO) to upload the 2015 financial disclosure reports of the one deceased and eight living justices of the U.S. Supreme Court to the AO’s website at the earliest possible moment.
Earlier this week, the President and Vice President released their financial disclosure reports on line within hours of their due date. But the federal judiciary is another story. For years, it has required members of the press and public seeking disclosure reports to fill out a form noting which reports are being requested, fax the form to Washington, wait to receive a notice of the cost of the requested reports (at $0.20 per page), then wait to find out the day in which the reports would be ready for pick-up and then physically go to the AO building, check in hand, to obtain them – or wait to receive them in the mail.
Nevertheless, Fix the Court has requested the justices’ disclosures the traditional way and will upload them to FixTheCourt.com once received.
“The time it would take the AO to redact the justices’ personal information and to upload their reports to USCourts.gov would be negligible,” Fix the Court executive director Gabe Roth said. “This is information that the public has a right to see, and the fact that the judiciary waits six weeks or longer to release it by paper, when there are both tech-savvy individuals and scanners sitting in the AO at this very moment, makes no sense.”
Not long ago, there was a question as to whether media and pro-transparency organizations were legally allowed to upload judges and justices’ disclosure reports online once obtained. In December 1999 the Judicial Conference’s Committee on Financial Disclosure voted not to release the disclosures to a news website that was keen on placing the reports online. The site, APBnews.com, sued the Committee, but before the case went to trial, the Conference voted 16-8 to rescind the Committee’s order.
At the time, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press issued a statement saying that the refusal to release the disclosures to a media organization intent on uploading the reports “impairs the media’s constitutional rights to gather information and harms the public’s trust in the judicial branch” – a sentiment that still rings true today.