Starting Today, All Judicial Stock Trades Now Subject to Online Disclosure Rules
But judges’ annual disclosures likely won’t be put online until next year
As today marks 90 days since President Biden signed the bipartisan Courthouse Ethics and Transparency Act, all stock sales and purchases made by federal judges and justices greater than $1,000 are now subject to the disclosure provisions of the STOCK Act, meaning that within 45 days of a transaction, judges must file a report, which the judiciary must post online.
“It’s been encouraging to see Republicans and Democrats in Congress come together to solve one of the many opacity problems in the third branch,” FTC’s Gabe Roth said. “It gives me hope that lawmakers can pass more legislation to open up the courts, from tearing down the paywall behind which a billion federal court documents reside to requiring judges to follow the same travel disclosure rules as top officials in the other branches.”
Fix the Court expects the first stock reports to be posted on or around Sept. 26. Under the law, failure to file a transaction report may result in a $200 fine or a referral to DOJ.
Judges’ financial holdings appear in Section VII of their annual financial disclosure reports. With about two-thirds of their 2020 reports still unreleased to the public (see Free Law Project’s database), we’re now up to 954 days behind on knowing the details of their stock deals. That’s unacceptable. Last year the Wall Street Journal found 131 judges missed stock conflicts in 685 cases between 2010 and 2018. As of today, more than 1,000 such conflicts have been identified.
Currently, two Supreme Court justices (Roberts and Alito) and an estimated 30 to 50 percent of lower courts judges hold individual stocks.
CETA also requires federal judges’ financial disclosure reports to be posted within 90 days of the filing deadline, which is this Sat., Aug. 13. However, the bill also requires the judiciary to create a searchable online database to house the disclosures within 180 days of enactment (Nov. 9).
Since we believe the judiciary is still working on the database, and it may take some time to complete, our hope is that the AO simply posts all the judges’ 2020 and 2021 disclosures on a USCourts.gov page as PDFs as soon as possible and then ensures the database is ready by the next annual reporting deadline, May 15, 2023.
Fix the Court has a decade’s worth of Supreme Court financial disclosures — which are generally released to the public a month after the filing deadline, and not up to three years after like lower court judges’ — at this link.