Three federal judges have resigned from a Bozeman
think tank's board of directors following allegations that
their involvement with the group was unethical.
Judge Andre Davis of the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Baltimore
resigned last month from the Foundation for Research on Economics
and the Environment's board of directors. FREE is a libertarian-leaning
group that advocates free-market approaches to environmental
The resignation came on the heels of ethics complaints filed
last year against four judges who sit on FREE's board. The
complaints were filed by the Washington, D.C.-based Community
In addition, Douglas Ginsburg, chief judge of the Circuit
Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, and Judge Jane
Roth of the 3rd Circuit Court in Philadelphia resigned from
FREE's board Friday.
The complaint against FREE board member Danny J. Boggs, chief
judge of the 6th Circuit Court in Kentucky, is still pending.
CRC alleged last year that corporate interests were trying
to influence judges who had environmental lawsuits pending
in their courts.
The council alleged that FREE's Montana-based seminars gave
corporations and individuals unusual access to these judges.
"These resignations prove the simple point
that a judge can't sit on the board of an organization that
takes money from corporations and other interested parties
to influence the outcome of environmental cases," Doug
Kendall, CRC executive director, said Thursday in a telephone
interview from his Washington office.
"This should make any federal judge very concerned about
taking a FREE trip," Kendall said.
FREE director John Baden Friday praised the judges' service
on the board. And Baden blasted Kendall, saying his allegations
of influence peddling are unfounded.
"What bothers the judges so much is the assertion that
we are anti-environmental, and that we run these boondoggles
to brainwash judges," Baden said. "Every judge on
our board is hurt and offended by the assertions that are
made by an organization that has no regard for the truth."
Baden also writes a column for the Chronicle's opinion page.
Ginsburg in his resignation letter said he was reluctant to
leave the board. "As a judge, however, I am not in a
position constantly to be correcting the false impressions
and calumnies that appear in the press."
CRC spent three years studying FREE's seminars. In a final
report, it cited examples in which judges were flown to Montana
for those seminars, their trips paid for by the same businesses
that had pending litigation in those judges' courts.
In some cases, lawyers for industries with pending lawsuits
were speaking to the judges who would decide the case, the
Some environmentalists have defended FREE, saying it goes
to great pains to present numerous points of view at its seminars.
But Kendall said if the judges' actions were ethical, they
wouldn't have quit the board. Ginsburg's resignation in particular
is substantial because he's been on FREE's board since its
inception, and weathered a lot of criticism.
"I don't think he would have resigned unless it was clear
to him that one of the reviewing judges thought such a course
was necessary," Kendall said. "We're delighted that
the judicial ethics process has worked."
Nick Gevock is at firstname.lastname@example.org