Ohio 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 Ohio:

Strengths:

There are few strong points in Ohio’s financial disclosure requirements. The state scored poorly in every category except accountability. Judges who file incomplete or inaccurate financial disclosures are subject to criminal prosecution.

Weaknesses:

Ohio asks very little about the investments of its Supreme Court members. Justices report stocks and other investments, including real estate, but the state doesn’t require them to report any income, transactions or values associated with their investments. Judges aren’t required to report the financial interests of their spouses or dependent children. The state also seeks minimal information about the financial liabilities of its high court justices or the gifts its justices receive.

Highlights:

Soon after winning a seat on Ohio’s Supreme Court last year, Justice Sharon Kennedy received gifts from four Republican members of the state’s general assembly, according to her 2012 financial disclosure filing. Kennedy, a Republican and former administrative judge, reported gifts from Reps. Tim Derickson and Margy Condit, along with Sens. David Burke and Bob Peterson. But it is not clear what they gave her or how much the gifts were worth. The Ohio justices need not report the value or nature of any gifts they receive.