Washington (Associated Press)-Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts stated that the federal judiciary needs to do more to ensure that judges do not participate in cases where there is a conflict of economic interest.
Roberts made these comments as part of his annual report Federal Judiciary released on Friday night.
Roberts pointed out that a series of recent reports in the Wall Street Journal found that “between 2010 and 2018, 131 federal judges participated in a total of 685 cases involving companies in which they or their families own stocks.” The law requires federal judges and Judges of the Supreme Court have avoided cases involving personal financial interests.
“Let me be clear: the judiciary takes this matter seriously. We expect judges to observe the highest standards, and these judges violate the code of ethics,” Roberts wrote in the nine-page report.
Roberts is one of only three individual judges in the nine-member Supreme Court. These holdings sometimes cause judges to evade the case or sell shares to participate. The other judges who own individual stocks are Stephen Breyer and Samuel Alito. In the past, these holdings occasionally caused problems.
In 2015, Breyer was involved in a high-profile energy case involving a subsidiary of Johnson Controls in Wisconsin. Routine inspections by Breyer’s office did not show that his wife owns Johnson Controls stock. After the case was debated, the investigation by the news media attracted Breyer’s attention, and his wife sold 750 shares worth approximately $33,000.
Alito was involved in a case involving swearing on TV on ABC Inc. and other networks. When the case was debated in 2008, Alito owned approximately $2,000 in shares of Walt Disney Co., the parent company of ABC. The case was won by a score of 5-4, and Alito voted against ABC’s interests by a majority. He later said that his participation was an oversight.
Roberts did not write a recusal in his own court for financial or other reasons. He did point out that in the case identified by the Wall Street Journal, the paper did not find any conflicts that affected the judge’s actions in the case. Roberts emphasized that “less than 3% of the 2.5 million civil cases filed in district courts in the nine years covered by the study” found conflicts, and the compliance rate was 99.97%.
But Roberts said: “We have a responsibility to strive for 100% compliance, because public trust is essential to our function, not conditional.”
Roberts said that the ethics training program needs to be more rigorous, “the information system that helps the court catch and prevent conflicts needs to be updated” and so on. He said that officials are working hard to solve this problem.
Although coronavirus cases have surgedRoberts simply mentioned the pandemic.Last year, Roberts annual report Focusing on the impact of the pandemic on the federal courts, Roberts Praise the judicial department personnel for their work during the epidemic.
Roberts and his colleagues are scheduled to return to court on January 7 for a series of special debates Weigh the challenges of two Biden government policies covering the vaccine needs of millions of workersThese cases involve policies that affect large employers and health care workers.
Due to the pandemic, the courts are not open to the public, and only judges, lawyers, court staff and reporters are present.Due to the pandemic, the judges spent nearly 19 months listening to the debate over the phone, but Back to court in october.