Ethically Challenged Judges Offer Dubious Defenses

This doesn't exactly rise (or sink?) to Duke Cunningham levels. But it appears that the judicial branch has ethics issues too:

A number of federal judges have violated ethics rules in recent years by presiding over lawsuits while having a financial conflict. Others have failed to disclose that they traveled to resorts on expense-paid trips. Interviews and documents reviewed by The Washington Post identified about a dozen such ethical lapses in recent years.

The "scandal," at least evaluated by the standards of Capitol Hill, is pretty tame -- it's a far cry from Members being on the take. The most interesting part of the story is how the judges responded to the charges.

From the "proves too much" department:

Judge Bruce Selya, of the First Circuit, responded to a claim that he heard an appeal involving a company he owned stock in by stresing that "anything that involves human beings is susceptible to error."

From the "I was hiding under a rock when one of the biggest mergers of all time was consummated" department:

Judge Harry Pregerson, of the Ninth Circuit, "said he did not realize he had a conflict [by virtue of owning AOL Time Warner stock], perhaps because he originally bought stock in AOL, before it merged with Time Warner: 'I just wasn't paying attention.'"

Finally, several judges gave this response:

In numerous other cases, judges' disclosure reports appear to identify conflicts of interest involving stocks, but the judges contended in interviews that no true conflicts existed because they had inadvertently misrepresented their holdings on the statements.

Translation: "We're not unethical. We're just incompetent!"

(Of course, the two aren't mutually exclusive. Insert joke about Congress here.)

Ethics Lapses by Federal Judges Persist, Review Finds [WP]

A Financial Interest [WP]


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