Connecticut earns ‘F’ for judicial financial disclosure

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The Center for Public Integrity evaluated the disclosure rules for judges in the highest state courts nationwide. The level of disclosure in the 50 states and the District of Columbia was poor, with 43 receiving failing grades, making it difficult for the public to identify potential conflicts of interest on the bench. Despite the lack of information in the public records, the Center’s investigation found nearly three dozen conflicts, questionable gifts and entanglements among top judges around the country. Here’s what the Center found in Connecticut:

Strengths:

Connecticut’s judges are required to report the source and exact amount of any compensation they receive beyond their judicial salaries. The state also asks for disclosure of travel reimbursements from sponsors of conferences or speeches.

Weaknesses:

Connecticut does not require judges to report any income information for spouses or dependent children. Failing to require disclosure for family members also cost the state points in the investments category, in which judges must name each security they owned or sold during the reporting year. Connecticut scored zero points in both the gifts and liabilities sections. Although Connecticut does not require judges to report gifts they receive, the state imposes some restrictions on what kinds of gifts public officials, including judges, can accept and from whom they can receive them. Additionally, Connecticut only earned half credit in the accountability category. While the state’s Judicial Review Council has the authority to investigate and suspend judges for up to one year for violating financial disclosure rules, any suspension beyond one year must be approved by the state Supreme Court itself, leaving the fate of an accused judge up to his or her peers on the bench.

Highlights:

In 2007, Justice Chase Rogers recused herself from hearing a same-sex marriage case because her husband’s law firm had previously filed a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of a legal organization in support of gay marriage in the case. Rogers acted ethically by sitting out the case, but the public never would have been able to identify the judge’s conflict on its own. That’s because, unlike some states, Connecticut does not require judges to report their spouse’s non-investment income.