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Financial Disclosure Tidbits

All federal judges and justices are required to file annual financial disclosure reports. That’s well known.

1. But did you know that judges are able to obtain up to a $1,370 reimbursement (Sept. 2023 edit: $1,685) “for the preparation of financial disclosure reports” — i.e., a reimbursement for fees they’d pay to a CPA, financial adviser or firm for assistance in filling out their FDRs (see pp. 21-22)? That reimbursement was approved by the Judicial Conference on Oct. 1, 2001 (was $1,000). It was raised in 2019 (Sept. 2023 edit:) and again in 2023.

2. Did you know that one of the preparers advises judges what types of information they might want redacted from their reports, and that this advice is overly broad, to the point where, if heeded by those in charge of redactions, the disclosures’ accountability purposed would be greatly diminished?

Read the redacting advice from 2019 here.

3. Did you know that the judiciary sends judges and justices very detailed instructions for how to fill out their disclosures each year, and these instructions, it would seem, would make it very difficult for, say, 131 judges to “forget” about financial conflicts in 685 cases from 2010 to 2018, as the Wall Street Journal reported in Sept. 2021, or a justice to omit their real estate transactions, as reported by ProPublica in 2023?

Read the 2010 instructions (for the 2009 disclosures) here.

Read the 2021 instructions (for the 2020 disclosures) here.

Read the 2023 instructions (for the 2022 disclosures), which include the “personal hospitality” update, here.

4. Did you know that under a subsection of the Ethics in Government Act judges and justices can be fined up to $50,000 for “knowingly and willfully falsif[ying…] any information that such individual is required to report” on their annual disclosure?

See 5 U.S.C. §13106(a)(1).

5. Did you know there is no public list detailing how many judges and justices have been fined under the law (on April 13 we asked the judiciary’s communications office for the information but haven’t heard back)?

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