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Almost Six Months After Our Request, We Finally Have Some More 2016 Disclosure Reports, Including Justice Gorsuch's

Also today, FTC joins with media groups in requesting live audio for upcoming D.C. Circuit case

After months of delays, we’ve obtained via a thumb drive from the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts the 2016 financial disclosure reports of six federal judges: Justice Neil Gorsuch and five judges on President Trump’s Supreme Court shortlist.

Highlights include:

– Sixth Circuit Judge Raymond Kethledge’s report, submitted on Aug. 29, was the only one of the group received by the AO past the 90-extension window (though there’s no real consequence) and included a $3,175 advance for a book he co-wrote on leadership that came out this June;

– Seventh Circuit Judge Diane Sykes’ report notes she’s on the hook for up to $100,000 in loans for her kids’ college tuition;

– Eighth Circuit Judge Raymond Gruender is the only one of the six who holds shares of individual companies. His report indicates he owns up to $185,000 worth in a dozen blue chips, including Bank of America, Exxon, Goldman Sachs and Microsoft;

– Eleventh Circuit Judge William Pryor was the most frequently reimbursed traveler in 2016, as his report listed trips paid for by the Federalist Society, Heritage Foundation and Cato Institute;

– Judge Margaret Ryan of the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces indicated she owns up to a $15,000 stake in Zoe’s Kitchen, the fast casual Mediterranean restaurant (or possibly another entity with the same name); and

– Justice Gorsuch’s report notes his stake, worth up to $500,000, in a northern Colorado estate that was sold in May 2017, a transaction we won’t know more about for – you guessed it – another year.

According to an Oct. 31 letter from AO staff to FTC executive director Gabe Roth, the reason given for the AO’s delay in releasing these reports was that “the Financial Disclosure Office tries to release all of the reports to an individual requester at the same time in order to mitigate the administrative burden associated with processing individual reports separately and to ensure that the requests are filled accurately.”

“It’s one step forward and one step backwards on court transparency these days,” Fix the Court executive director Gabe Roth said. “Financial disclosure reports are delayed months without any good reason, but at least they’re made available digitally via thumb drive.”

The AO did not send the 2016 disclosure report from Third Circuit Judge Thomas Hardiman that FTC had also requested in May. Earlier this year, Hardiman was named of one three finalists for the Supreme Court seat the eventually went to Gorsuch, and it is unknown whether Hardiman’s extensive stock portfolio – and any efforts to unravel himself from it – was the cause of the delay.

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Also today, FTC joined with the leaders of the Society for Professional JournalistsRadio Television Digital News AssociationNational Press Photographers Association and Online News Association in writing a letter to D.C. Circuit Chief Judge Merrick Garland requesting live audio for arguments in the Nov. 13 case Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press v. FBI.

The case stems from a 2007 warrant executed by the FBI allowing the agency to track the computer of a bomb-threat suspect. The individual was sent a fake news story attributed to the Associated Press, and once he clicked on it, which he did, the FBI was able to track his computer. The AP sent a FOIA request to the FBI asking how often the outlet’s name had been used – and its good name name impugned – in these operations between 2000 and 2014. The FBI did not comply, citing security concerns, so the AP and the Reporters Committee sued.

Last month and thanks to an FTC request, the D.C. Circuit had for the first time ever livestreamed argument audio from its website, so today’s letter-signers believed RCFP v. FBI would be an apt follow-up to that foray into great access.

“We are greatly appreciative that the Court permitted streaming audio for the October 20 hearing,” the groups wrote in the letter, “and we believe that next week’s case, being of heightened public interest due to both First Amendment and national security questions, should also be accessible to the larger public live.”

Contact the Committee on Financial Disclosure

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