Michigan 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 Michigan:

Strengths:

Michigan seeks limited information about judicial campaign contributions on its annual financial disclosure forms, a rarity among state requirements. The secretary of state’s office separately catalogs much more extensive information about campaigns, but the disclosure on the court forms gives a summary of the costs of the campaigns.

Weaknesses:

Michigan scored near the bottom, at 44th place, because its one-page form does not seek any information about judges’ investments or liabilities. Information about spouses or dependent children is not required either.

Highlights:

Former Justice Diane Hathaway is currently serving a 366-day sentence after pleading guilty to bank fraud in January 2013 for hiding her ownership of a home in Florida to reduce how much she had to pay a bank during a short sale of a Michigan home. Her financial disclosures from her time on the bench do not list any property holdings because the state does not ask for such information.