Legal Publisher Gave State, Federal Judges Gifts, Newspaper Says

Article excerpt

Federal judges, including several U.S. Supreme Court justices, have accepted travel and other gifts from one of the nation's leading legal publishing houses, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported Sunday.

The jurists accepted the benefits from West Publishing Co., of Eagan, Minn., while in some cases making decisions relating to the company, the newspaper reported.

West is a privately held $600 million-a-year company that has been reporting decisions by state and federal courts throughout the country since the turn of the century. West's reports and cross reference system are considered so authoritative that they are accepted virtually as official and are cited in court documents.

The Star Tribune said the judges who accepted gifts broke no laws but should have excused themselves, according to some ethics experts the newspaper contacted.

West Publishing strongly denied it has done anything illegal and said it has followed all rules covering contracts with public officials, the Star Tribune said.

According to the Star Tribune, at least seven Supreme Court justices - Justices Sandra Day O'Connor, John Paul Stevens, Antonin Scalia and Anthony Kennedy and retired Justices Lewis Powell, Byron White and William Brennan - took trips at West Publishing's expense.

The trips were part of the selection process to pick the winner of the annual Edward J. Devitt Distinguished Service to Justice Award, a $15,000 prize established by West Publishing in 1982 and awarded to an outstanding federal judge. …