This editorial appeared in The Houston
Chronicle on December 18, 1999
Financial reports are
By Dr. G. Alan Robison, Executive Director, Drug Policy Forum of Texas
It is perfectly reasonable in these days of international terrorism and bloodthirsty Colombian drug lords for federal judges to be concerned about their safety and that of their families. But it is totally unreasonable for the judges to refuse in the name of security to release copies of their annual financial disclosure statements to a company that wants to post them on the Internet.
What physical danger is posed to judges in publicly revealing their stock purchases and property holdings? That's a lame excuse.
For the past two decades Congress has required federal judges and other high-ranking federal officials to file yearly financial statements reporting their stock holdings, family assets, gifts and other income. There is no requirement that the judges' home addresses or other information clearly involving matters of security be listed.
The reports, for years routinely made public to the news media and anyone requesting them, help provide a more open window on the nation's federal judiciary. They serve also to expose any potential conflicts of interests that judges may have regarding cases.
Nevertheless, a panel of federal judges this
week refused to release the financial disclosure statements of
approximately 1,600 active and semiretired federal judges and
magistrates to a news organization, APCnews.com. The news operation
wants to place them on the Internet. Some news organizations
already have the financial disclosure reports of some judges
The court committee is terribly wrong in its decision to sit on these public reports. Home addresses aren't necessary, if that is what the judges are worried about. These financial disclosure reports are meant to be open records for the public to see-even on the Internet.
Drug Policy Forum of Texas