Delaware 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 Delaware:

Strengths:

Unlike many states, Delaware scored points in every category of The Center for Public Integrity’s grading rubric — just not very many. The state scored highest in the accountability category, because judges can face misdemeanor charges for filing late reports or knowingly filing false reports. Delaware also scored a few points in the gifts section because judges must disclose the value of each gift they receive, in addition to the source of the gift.

Weaknesses:

Delaware doesn’t require judges to disclose information about financial interests held exclusively by their family members. Nor must judges report specific dollar values for their income or financial assets, including stocks and real estate. Delaware’s financial disclosures are available by request, but they are not posted online. In an email to the Center, Janet Wright, the former counsel of Delaware’s Public Integrity Commission, wrote that the state agency does not post financial disclosure reports online “because information could be garnered from them that could be used to ‘phish’ for account numbers or create a false identity.”

Highlights:

According to his financial disclosure, Justice Randy Holland keeps himself busy outside the courtroom. The justice reported earning income in 2012 from four universities. Holland is an adjunct professor of law at Widener University, Washington University in St. Louis, Vanderbilt University and the University of Iowa. In an interview, Holland told the Center that the course he teaches at Widener is a night class. The classes at the other schools, meanwhile, are primarily taught on weekends. Teaching “is what I like to do in my free time,” he said, adding that his course load does not interfere with his work on the bench. In fact, Holland says teaching makes him a better judge. “It’s been helpful,” he said. “It helps you stay current. When you teach, it helps you bring your thoughts together.”