In his article on private judicial seminars hosted by the
Foundation for Research on Economics and the Environment (FREE),
John Baden takes offense at my suggestion that the seminars
seek to advance a particular philosophical perspective ("Character
assassination," Op-Ed, Tuesday). But Mr. Baden is on
record as saying the lectures promote free-market environmentalism.
And his own board has bragged that the seminars parallel litigation
campaigns to challenge environmental regulations.
Many people, including myself, favor free-market solutions
to environmental problems where appropriate. But the broad-based
attack on environmental laws promoted by FREE and its allies
conflicts with basic values shared by most Americans.
More to the point, the primary ethical problem with FREE's
seminars is not what is taught, but rather the gifts to the
judges Mr. Baden uses to fill the seats. Federal judges are
public servants, and they should not accept gifts of travel
to resort locations offered because of their official positions.
As I explained in my Legal Times article mentioned by Mr.
Baden, federal prosecutors who litigate cases before these
judges are prohibited from accepting comparable gifts. What
sense does it make to allow federal judges to accept them?
What's more, FREE's seminars have included lecturers that
have substantial and direct interests in cases pending before
the judges in attendance. When other judges and legal ethics
scholars criticize these practices, Mr. Baden resorts to name-calling
and then changes the subject.
If a judge wants to attend a seminar hosted by FREE or any
other group, regardless of its philosophical perspective,
the judge should pay the associated expenses and ensure that
the lecturers are not litigating cases before the judge's
court. Mr. Baden evidently fears that few judges would attend
his events if they followed these simple ethical principles.
TIMOTHY J. DOWLING
Community Rights Counsel