Methodology: how we graded state supreme court financial disclosure

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The Center for Public Integrity reviewed the rules governing financial disclosures for the highest ranking state judges in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Grades were based generally on rules for federal judges, but under advisement of ethics experts, there were some differences. For example, more credit was awarded for filings made available online and for states that require dollar values of assets to be reported in exact figures instead of ranges. Under these standards, the federal judicial requirements earned an 84 out of 100 possible points. The Center also only gave credit for disclosures that were made publicly available. In states with multiple filing requirements, the Center based the final state grade on publicly available forms.

Grading Scale:

90-100                  A
80-89                     B          
70-79                     C       
60-69                     D    
Less than 60        F

Part I.

Is the judge required to disclose his/her household income? (20 points)

 Judge's outside, non-investment income sources and amounts are reported. (10 points)

  • If state requires judge to disclose income source and exact amount of income, it receives full credit (10 points).
  • If state requires judge to disclose income source but exact amount of income is not required, it receives half credit (5 points).
  • State receives no credit if neither income source nor exact income amount is disclosed.

 Spouse's non-investment income source is reported. (10 points)

  • Amounts need not be reported to receive full credit.

Part II.

Is the judge required to disclose investments (including real estate) for judge, spouse and dependent children? (20 points)

 Description of the investments/assets is disclosed. (5 points)

  • If state requires judge to identify investments/assets held by the judge, the judge’s spouse and dependent children, it receives full credit (5 points).
  • If state requires judge to identify investments/assets held by the judge and either the judge’s spouse or the judge’s dependent children, but not both, it receives 3.75 points.
  • If state requires judge to identify investments/assets held by the judge only, it receives half credit (2.5 points).

 Income from the investments/assets during the reporting period is disclosed. (5 points)

  • If state requires judge to disclose exact income amounts for judge, judge’s spouse and dependent children, it receives full credit (5 points).
  • If state requires judge to disclose exact income amounts for the judge and either the judge’s spouse or dependent children, but not both, it receives 3.75 points.
  • If state requires judge to disclose exact income amounts for the judge only, it receives 2.5 points.
  • If state requires judge to disclose income amounts in a range for the judge, spouse and dependent children, it receives 2.5 points.
  • If state requires judge to disclose income amounts in a range for the judge and either the judge’s spouse or dependent children, but not both, it receives 1.875 points.
  • If state requires judge to disclose income amounts in a range for the judge only, it receives 1.25 points.

 Gross value of the investment/asset at the end of the reporting period is disclosed. (5 points)

  • If state requires judge to disclose exact income amounts for the judge, the judge’s spouse and dependent children, it receives full credit (5 points).
  • If state requires judge to disclose exact income amounts for the judge and either the judge’s spouse or dependent children, but not both, it receives 3.75 points.
  • If state requires judge to disclose exact income amounts for the judge only, it receives 2.5 points.
  • If state requires judge to disclose income amounts in a range for the judge, spouse and dependent children, it receives 2.5 points.
  • If state requires judge to disclose income amounts in a range for the judge and either the judge’s spouse or dependent children, but not both, it receives 1.875 points.
  • If state requires judge to disclose dollar amounts in a range for the judge only, it receives 1.25 points.

 Transactions during the reporting period are disclosed. (5 points)

  • If state requires judges to disclose transactions on investments held by the judge, the judge’s spouse and dependent children, it receives full credit (5 points).
  • If state requires judges to disclose transactions on investments held by the judge and either the judge’s spouse or dependent children, but not both, it receives 3.75 points.
  • If state requires judges to disclose transactions on investments held by the judge only, it receives 2.5 points.

Part III.

Is the judge required to disclose gifts and reimbursements made to judge, judge’s spouse and dependent children? (20 points)

 The source of the gift is disclosed. (4 points)

  • If state requires the source of gifts to the judge, the judge’s spouse and dependent children be disclosed, it receives full credit (4 points).
  • If state requires the source of gifts to the judge and either the judge’s spouse or the dependent children of the judge but not both, it receives 3 points.
  • If state requires the source of gifts to the judge only, it receives 2 points.

 Description of gifts is disclosed. (3 points)

  • If state requires that the description of gifts be disclosed for the judge, spouse and dependent children, it receives full credit (3 points).
  • If state requires the description of gifts be disclosed for the judge and either the spouse or the dependent children of the judge but not both, it receives 2.25 points.
  • If state requires the description of gifts for the judge only, it receives 1.5 points.

 Dollar value of gifts is disclosed. (3 points)

  • If state requires judge to disclose the exact value of gifts made to the judge, the judge’s spouse and dependent children, it receives full credit (3 points).
  • If state requires judge to disclose the exact value of gifts made to judge and either the judge’s spouse or dependent children, but not both, it receives 2.25 points.
  • If state requires judge to disclose the exact value of gifts made to judge only, it receives 1.5 points.
  • If state requires judge to disclose value of gifts in a range for the judge, the judge’s spouse and dependent children, it receives 1.5 points.
  • If state requires judge to disclose value of gifts in a range for the judge and either the judge’s spouse or dependent children, but not both, it receives 1.125 points.
  • If state requires judge to disclose value of gifts in a range for the judge only, it receives 0.75 points.

 The source of reimbursements is disclosed. (4 points)

  • If state requires that the source of the reimbursement be disclosed for the judge, the judge’s spouse and dependent children, it receives full credit (4 points).
  • If state requires the source of the reimbursement be disclosed for the judge and either the judge’s spouse or dependent children, but not both, it receives 3 points.
  • If state requires the source of the reimbursement for the judge only, it receives 2 points.

 Description of reimbursements is disclosed. (3 points)

  • If state requires that the description of the reimbursements be disclosed for the judge, the judge’s spouse and dependent children, it receives full credit (3 points).
  • If state requires the description of the reimbursements be disclosed for the judge and either the judge’s spouse or dependent children, but not both, it receives 2.25 points.
  • If state requires the description of the reimbursements for only the judge only, it receives 1.5 points.

 Dollar value of reimbursements is disclosed. (3 points)

  • If state requires judge to disclose exact value of reimbursements made to judge, judge’s spouse and dependent children, it receives full credit (3 points).
  • If state requires judge to disclose exact value of reimbursements made to judge and either judge’s spouse or dependent children, but not both, it receives 2.25 points.
  • If state requires judge to disclose exact value of reimbursements made to judge only, it receives 1.5 points.
  • If state requires judge to disclose value of reimbursements in a range for the judge, judge’s spouse and dependent children, it receives 1.5 points.
  • If state requires judge to disclose value of reimbursements in a range for the judge and either the judge’s spouse or dependent children, but not both, it receives 1.125 points.
  • If state requires judge to disclose value of reimbursements in a range for the judge only, it receives 0.75 points.

Part IV.

Is the judge required to disclose liabilities of the judge, judge’s spouse and dependent children? (20 points)

 Creditors are disclosed. (8 points)

  • If state requires that creditors for the judge, judge’s spouse and dependent children be disclosed, it receives full credit (8 points).
  • If state requires that creditors be disclosed for the judge and either the judge’s spouse or dependent children, but not both, it receives 6 points.
  • If state requires that creditors be disclosed for the judge only, it receives 4 points.
     

 Description of liabilities is disclosed. (6 points)

  • If state requires that the description of liabilities for the judge, the judge’s spouse and dependent children be disclosed, it receives full credit (6 points).
  • If state requires the description of liabilities for the judge and either the judge’s spouse or dependent children, but not both, it receives 4.5 points.
  • If state requires the description of liability for the judge only, it receives 3 points.

 Value of liabilities is disclosed. (6 points)

  • If state requires judge to disclose exact amount of liabilities for judge, judge’s spouse and dependent children, it receives full credit (6 points).
  • If state requires judge to disclose exact amount of liabilities for judge and either the judge’s spouse or dependent children, but not both, it receives 4.5 points.
  • If state requires judge to disclose exact amount of liabilities for judge only, it receives 3 points.
  • If state requires judge to disclose amount of liabilities in a range for the judge, judge’s spouse and dependent children, it receives 3 points.
  • If state requires judge to disclose amount of liabilities in a range for the judge and either the judge’s spouse or dependent children, but not both, it receives 2.25 points.
  • If state requires judge to disclose amount of liabilities in a range for the judge only, it receives 1.5 points.

Part V.

Are judges held accountable for filing timely and accurate reports? (10 points)

 Delinquent filers are subject to penalties. (5 points)

  • State provides a penalty for failure to file accurate reports in a timely fashion.

 State has meaningful enforcement authority. (5 points)

  • “Meaningful enforcement authority” is defined as a governmental body with power to penalize delinquent filers that is not controlled by the judge’s peers.

Part VI.
Can members of the public easily access the financial disclosures? (10 points)

  1. Annual judicial filings are available online. (10 points)
  2. Annual judicial filings are available by mail, fax or email. (5 points)
  3. Annual judicial filings are available only to those who pick them up in person. (2.5 points)