In early 1998, Community Rights Counsel, then a fledgling organization with no paid staff, discovered and broke the remarkable news that each year dozens of federal judges were being wined, dined, and indoctrinated at anti-environmental “junkets for judges.” The front-page story that followed in the Washington Post generated outrage from judicial ethics experts, hearings on Capitol Hill, and dozens of news stories and editorials.
For the last nine years, we have kept a sustained national media spotlight on these disturbing ethical lapses by the federal judiciary. Our research has been featured in hundreds of print news stories, more than 50 editorials in national papers, segments on ABC News’ 20/20, Nightline, and World News Tonight, and more than ten broadcasts of National Public Radio.
CRC’s work on this issue has already produced changes in the travel and disclosure rules that apply to every federal and state judge in America. In September 2006, the Judicial Conference (the policy-making body for the federal judiciary) announced that groups other than bar associations and the National Judicial College that sponsor junkets for judges must post information about their funders, their speakers, and their programs on the internet. Judges who go on junkets must disclose detailed information about the trip within 30 days of taking it. The American Bar Association has subsequently adopted similar disclosure rules in its model code of ethics for state judges. After years of the Judicial Conference refusing to admit that junkets were a problem, the new rules are an important step in the right direction. Currently, a bipartisan coalition of Senators, led by Jon Kyl (R-AZ) and Russ Feingold (D-WI) is sponsoring an amendment that would ban junkets as part of legislation that would give judges a sizable pay raise. We’re hopeful that this indefensible practice will be eliminated entirely in 2008.
View a timeline of major events in CRC's campaign to ban judicial junkets
Search CRC's Trips for Judges database of over 10,000 judicial trips
Read CRC's report Nothing
for FREE: How Private Judicial Seminars Are Undermining
Environmental Protections and Breaking the Public's Trust
Read CRC's report Tainted Justice: How Private Judicial Seminars Undermine Public Trust in the Federal Judiciary