In a letter to the newly appointed Financial Disclosure Committee Chairman Anthony Trenga, Fix the Court today is calling on the judiciary to release the annual financial reports of Supreme Court justices and federal judges in a more timely manner.
The Administrative Office of U.S. Courts announced on March 14, 2017, that the reports would be made available for free via thumb drives and not only distributed on paper for a fee, as had been done since the disclosures law passed in 1978. On June 8, eight of the nine justices’ 2016 reports were issued – all but Justice Neil Gorsuch’s, which remains unreleased.
On the same form on which FTC requested the sitting justices’ reports, the organization asked for the disclosures of Judges Thomas Hardiman (CA3), Raymond Kethledge (CA6), Diane Sykes (CA7), Raymond Gruender (CA8), William Pryor (CA11), Margaret Ryan (CAAF) and Brett Kavanaugh (CADC) – and has yet to receive them.
FTC has learned in the intervening months that members of the press requested various other 2016 reports the AO has yet to release, including those for retired justices and the statutory officers of the high court.
“It’s one step forward and one step backwards on court transparency these days,” Fix the Court executive director Gabe Roth said. “We get a thumb drive with eight disclosures in June, but the others are missing in action for months.”
In FTC’s most recent correspondence with the AO, on Oct. 18, a Financial Disclosure Committee staff member responded, “Unfortunately, the other reports [you requested in May] are not available at this time. We will send the reports to you as soon as they are ready.” A Sept. 15 e-mail to the CFD was returned with a similar message: “We are still working on your request,” the staffer wrote. “Please check back with us in a few weeks.”
It is far more likely that the delay is coming from Administrative Office than from the judges and justices themselves. None of the justices has in recent memory failed to meet the extended filing deadline of 90 days after the May 15 due date. Justice Samuel Alito came closest this decade with a Day 90 filing of his 2011 disclosure report on Aug. 13, 2012.
“I am cognizant that it takes some time to redact personal information from the reports and that each judge or justice whose report is requested must be notified of the request,” Roth concluded in his letter to Judge Trenga. “That said, this process should take days, not many months.”
Once obtained, Fix the Court will post these disclosures at this link.