Democrats in Congress have introduced a proposal that would put new rules in place around the financial assets held by federal judges, including the nine members of the U.S. Supreme Court.
Financial assets that could potentially pose a conflict of interest would need to be placed into a blind trust should the rules be enacted, meaning that financial holdings where the judge’s interest could create a conflict with what is supposed to be the impartial application of the law would be essentially upended. (They’d be able to legally remove their assets after leaving the judiciary.) A press release from Schiff’s office cited a past report from The Wall Street Journal claiming over 130 federal judges had, throughout a recent years-long period, heard cases involving interests to which their own financial stakes were connected. That’s not great!
Under the plan from Schiff and the others, the blind trust would need to be truly blind, meaning judges would be prohibited from accessing essentially any substantial information after the placement of their initial holdings. Spouses and dependent children of these federal judges would also be covered by the rules. Schiff’s proposal is wide-reaching, and it would even demand that written attestations from members of the federal judiciary covering the establishment of their required blind trusts be made publicly available.
“We desperately need to bring ethics back to the Supreme Court – and all our nation’s courts,” Schiff said. “That’s why I am introducing the Justice is BLIND Act, to help ensure that federal judges and justices are making decisions based on the law, and not because of any personal financial interest. Our bill will require that all financial investments and assets owned by judges do not influence their decisions, and are held in a blind trust.”
At the level of the Supreme Court, financial concerns have included the huge sums made by the Chief Justice’s wife in work done in placing lawyers in highly paid positions. The concern is that holding a financial stake — whether because the given entity has supported the judge in the past or some other scenario — could facilitate the development of unfair favor towards some cause.