California’s financial disclosure requirements for its judges are among the strongest in the nation. The state even posts online the reports about judges income and investments — a level of transparency that almost every other state refuses to meet.
Meanwhile, on the other end of the spectrum, Montana, Utah and Idaho don’t require their justices to file any disclosure reports at all.
Does that mean the judiciaries of Montana, Utah and Idaho are less honest and more prone to corruption than California’s? It’s a question to think about in reading a detailed, new report by the Center for Public Integrity on judicial financial disclosure.
The nonpartisan media watchdog group scrutinized the disclosure rules for judges in the highest state courts across the nation. States were rated on a scale of 0 to 100 and assigned letter grades based on their transparency. California got a 77 out of 100, the best in the nation. Maryland, Washington and Massachusetts and Illinois also ranked in the top five. Montana, Utah and Idaho tied for last with a score of zero.
The group found dozens of examples of “questionable gifts, investments overlapping with caseloads” and instances in which judges or their spouses owned stock in companies involved in cases over which they presided.
The report suggested that the center would have identified more conflicts were it not for the spotty or non-existent disclosure rules in many states, most of which received failing...