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Judiciary to Release Financial Disclosures on Thumb Drives, Ending Decades-Long Paper-Only Policy

Following its biannual meeting, the Judicial Conference of the United States announced that effective immediately, financial disclosure reports for federal judges, including Supreme Court justices, would be made available to the press and public via thumb drives at no charge.

In announcing the change, the JCUS noted that the new policy would “reduce the costs incurred by the Judiciary and by requesters and increase the speed with which the reports can be released.” Typically, it had taken five to seven weeks for the judges’ and justices’ financial disclosure reports, which are due by statute on May 15, to be released by paper.

“This is an important victory for transparency advocates, and it’s heartening to know our work is paying off,” Fix the Court executive director Gabe Roth said. “Our ultimate goal is ensuring that the justices’ disclosures are placed online each year as soon as possible, and this new policy will help us achieve that.”

Since Fix the Court was founded in late 2014, the organization had obtained the justices’ reports each year, as well as those of potential nominees to the high court who are federal judges, at a cost of $0.20 per page. Once obtained, the organization uploads the reports to – and will continue to do so. Federal judges have filed these reports – detailing outside income, spousal income, travel reimbursements, gifts, board and other memberships, liabilities, investments and trusts – since the passage of the post-Watergate Ethics in Government Act.

Roth added: “It’s true that the new policy is not online disclosures, which Congress is required to do and the past President has done, but it’s an important acknowledgement at the highest levels of the judiciary that its antiquated systems should change in the interests of greater transparency and accountability.”

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