Hidden Camera Exposes Junkets for Judges
to Air Investigation Tomorrow of Judges Vacationing
at Luxury Resorts on Corporate Dime
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 5, 2001
CONTACT: Doug Kendall or Zach Church, Community
Rights Counsel, 202-296-6889
Washington – A hidden-camera investigation
by ABC’s 20/20, scheduled to air Friday, April 6, will
reveal federal judges playing golf and lounging at a premier
Tucson resort – at the expense of anti-environmental front
groups funded by corporations often having cases before those
Every year, nearly 100 federal judges spend
a week or more being “educated” in seminars held at lavish
tropical resorts and scenic dude ranches, paid for not by
the judiciary’s education arm but by corporations and pro-business
Community Rights Counsel (CRC), a public
interest law firm in Washington, D.C., credits 20/20
with providing visual documentation of how these corporate-funded
junkets break the public's trust in the judiciary.
CRC exposed these junkets in 1998 and last year issued
a report documenting how they appear to be advancing the agenda
of their corporate sponsors and undermining the American system
of environmental protections.
“20/20’s investigation should be
the straw that breaks the camel's back," said CRC Executive
Director Doug Kendall. “It will be clear to anyone watching
that corporate interests are attempting to buy judicial influence
with these junkets. It’s time that the judiciary put a stop
to this blatant corporate lobbying.”
Junkets for judges have been written about
for more than two years and have drawn widespread criticism
from newspaper editorials, public interest organizations,
and judicial ethicists. Last year, responding to this outcry, Senators John Kerry of
Massachusetts and Russell Feingold of Wisconsin introduced
a bill to ban the junkets.
They will reintroduce this bill in the coming weeks.
The 20/20 investigation demonstrates,
however, that federal judges are willfully ignoring existing
ethics rules and the judiciary has refused to stop the practice
of corporations buying judges’ attention.
In fact, Chief Justice Rehnquist recently defended
the junkets while demanding a pay raise for federal judges.
The judiciary's inaction convinced 20/20 to go undercover
at a judges’ junket held at an Arizona golf resort to give
Americans a behind-the-scenes access to one of these ethically
suspect resort seminars.
The 20/20 investigation features
a junket financed by the conservative Law and Economic Center
(LEC), which is loosely affiliated with the George Mason University
Law School in Arlington, Virginia. LEC pays for the course,
deluxe accommodations, transportation, food, drink, and some
recreational activities. It’s not known how much the Tucson
trip cost, but one judge attending a 1997 LEC trip reported
the value at $7,367.
The LEC teaches judges the right-leaning
“Chicago School” of law and economics, an academic discipline
that instructs judges to think like CEOs and marginalizes
consumer and regulatory
protections, including the tort system, anti-trust, and environmental
laws. An LEC newsletter boasts that more than one-third of
all federal judges have attended one of its junkets and that
many judges believe the programs have “totally altered their
frame of reference for cases involving economic issues.”
LEC has aggressively stonewalled efforts
to uncover its funding sources, hiding this information even
from the federal judiciary. But research by 20/20 and CRC
reveals that LEC's funders include corporations such as Ford
Motor Co. and Proctor & Gamble and right-wing financiers
such Richard Mellon Scaife and the John M. Olin Foundation.
These corporations are frequently involved in federal litigation,
and the conservative foundations regularly finance others
to litigate on behalf of their pro-corporate ideology.
In July 2000, CRC published a report entitled
Nothing for Free: How
Private Judicial Seminars are Undermining Environmental Protections
and Breaking the Public’s Trust.
The study – the most thorough investigation of the
junkets’ sponsors and participants – revealed a pattern of
disturbing facts, including the following:
10 of the last decade’s most dramatic departures from established
precedent, the judge striking down the environmental protections
took part in at least one junket.
six of these cases, the judge attended the seminar while
the case was pending.
at least three of these cases, the judge ruled in favor
of a litigant bankrolled by the seminar’s sponsors.
one of the decade’s most infamous environmental rulings,
a judge ruled to uphold habitat protection, attended a seminar,
came back, switched his vote, and wrote an opinion striking
down a central component of the Endangered Species Act.
CRC Executive Director Doug Kendall, who
will be featured on 20/20, is available for interviews.
Please call Doug at (202) 296-6889, ext. 3.
CRC’s report, Nothing for Free,
can be downloaded at www.TripsForJudges.org.
For a complete list of judges who attended the Tucson seminar
featured on 20/20, click here.
To read the 20/20 script from April 6, click here.