One year ago, Congress passed the Sarbanes-Oxley corporate
responsibility legislation, which included a provision requiring
chief executives to sign under penalty of prosecution that
their reports to the Securities and Exchange Commission were
But the U.S. judiciary has taken an opposite tack in accountability
and responsibility, according to its critics. Federal judges
have removed in the past few years statements from their financial-disclosure
forms that certified under penalty of civil and criminal sanctions
that they have not handled matters in which they or their
families held a financial interest.
The form previously said, in part, "I did not perform
any adjudicatory function in any litigation during the period
covered by the report in which I, my spouse, or my minor or
dependent children had a financial interest."
Hearsay was alerted this month to the deletion by Douglas
T. Kendall of the Community Rights Council, a group that monitors
judges. Kendall has followed news reports about judges who
have handled cases in which they had a financial interest.
"This is an absolutely outrageous response to an ethical
crisis by a branch of government that says all the time they
are utterly dependent upon the public's trust," Kendall
Karen Redmond, spokeswoman for the Administrative Office for
the U.S. Courts, said the sworn certification was "confusing"
and unnecessary because it repeated something already required
by law. She said the change was recommended by the Committee
on Financial Disclosure, a part of the judicial conference,
in 1999 and that it was "unfair" to compare judges
to the new standards developed last year for chief executives.
Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), a Senate Judiciary Committee
member who previously chaired a judiciary oversight committee,
said the public has a right to know about potential conflicts
of interests. In 1998, Grassley wrote a letter with then-Sen.
John D. Ashcroft (R-Mo.) asking that judges make public their
recusal lists, which judges keep private, and detail those
matters in which they would have a possible conflict.
"Maneuvers that are designed to undermine the greatest
possible disclosure of information only breed cynicism,"
Grassley said Friday. "Public officials, including the
federal judiciary, need to do everything possible to build
public trust, rather than chip away at it."
Hearsay's fair and balanced coverage of the legal industry
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