Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Judges Relent: They'll Release Personal Financial Data on Net

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Judges Relent: They'll Release Personal Financial Data on Net

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON -- Coming soon to the Internet: financial disclosure reports on about 1,600 federal judges.

Despite concerns that such postings could cause security problems for judges, the U.S. Judicial Conference, the judiciary's policy- making body, said Tuesday it had reversed a committee's decision last year to refuse to provide the reports to the Web site APBnews.com.

APBnews.com sued, and the Judicial Conference, prodded by Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, voted 16-8 to reverse the committee's action.

"We think this is a victory both for the online public and the American public," Mark Sauter, APBnews.com's chief operating officer, said. "It reaffirms the right the public has to see public documents in the most convenient and expeditious manner."

Chief Judge Ralph Winter of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, who chairs the conference's executive committee, told reporters "there is not discretion to deny entirely the reports of all ... judges simply because they are going to be placed on the Internet."

In December, the Judicial Conference's financial disclosure committee had said posting the reports, which contain information on judges' stock holdings, family assets and gifts they receive, would create a security risk.

Winter said that before forms are released judges will be allowed to ask that security-related information be deleted. After those issues are resolved, "I would assume they (APBnews.com) will get them," Winter said.

Sauter said that once his organization receives the reports, "we intend to put these documents on the Internet as soon as we possibly can."

Sauter said his news site seeks to post the reports to help the public decide whether judges are properly following conflict of interest rules that bar them from deciding cases involving organizations in which they have a financial interest. …

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