Norton to Introduce Bill to Increase Financial Disclosure Requirements for D.C. Court Judges

Jan 19, 2016
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C.—When the House returns to session next week, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) will introduce a bill to increase the transparency of the District of Columbia Courts, which in 2014 were given a failing grade by a Center for Public Integrity survey based on the courts’ judicial financial disclosure rules.  Norton’s bill would increase transparency by enhancing financial disclosure requirements for D.C. court judges, making them similar to the disclosure requirements already set for federal judges.  D.C. Superior Court and D.C. Court of Appeals judges are Article I judges, not Article III judges, who preside in federal district courts and federal courts of appeal.

In her introductory statement, Norton said, “Although current federal law does require D.C. Superior Court and D.C. Court of Appeals judges to file annual financial reports, much of the information included in those reports remains confidential.  For example, while judges are required to submit information about their income, investments, liabilities, and gifts, current law only makes public judges’ connections to charities, private organizations, and businesses, and honorariums that are more than $300.  My bill would bring some much-needed transparency to the D.C. Courts by making all of this information—except for a judge’s personally identifiable information—available for public inspection.”

Norton’s full introductory statement is below.

Statement of Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton on the Introduction of the District of Columbia Judicial Financial Transparency Act of 2016

            Today, I introduce the District of Columbia Judicial Financial Transparency Act of 2016, a bill that would enhance financial disclosure requirements for D.C. Court judges, making them similar to the disclosure requirements already in place for Article III federal judges.  Although current federal law does require D.C. Superior Court and D.C. Court of Appeals judges to file annual financial reports, much of the information included in those reports remains confidential.  For example, while judges are required to submit information about their income, investments, liabilities, and gifts, current law only makes public judges’ connections to charities, private organizations, and businesses, and honorariums that are more than $300.  My bill would bring some much-needed transparency to the D.C. Courts by making all of this information—except for a judge’s personally identifiable information—available for public inspection.

            This legislation is particularly necessary because open government advocates have found the D.C. Courts to be seriously lacking in transparency.  In fact, a 2014 survey by the Center for Public Integrity that took a comprehensive look at each state’s judicial financial disclosure rules, gave the District a failing grade.  D.C. Court judges already submit enough financial information to improve the District’s standing—my bill would make it public.

            Only Congress can make these necessary changes.  I urge my colleagues to support this good government bill, to improve transparency for judges in the District of Columbia.

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