New law toughens stock disclosure requirements for federal judges; separate ethics bill faces 'steep climb'

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President Joe Biden on Friday signed into law a bill that strengthens financial disclosure requirements for federal judges.

The bill, the Courthouse Ethics and Transparency Act, applies to federal judges with lifetime tenure, as well as magistrate and bankruptcy judges, report Law360 and Bloomberg Law.

According to a press release and past coverage, the law:

• Requires judges to report stock trades of more than $1,000 within 45 days.

• Requires the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts to create a searchable online database for judicial financial disclosure forms and make them available within 90 days of their filing.

Judges can request redactions of personal information from the disclosure reports because of security concerns.

Judges already were required to file annual financial disclosure reports before passage of the bill. But requests for that information are sometimes subject to long delays as decisions on redactions are made.

Also, judges already were barred from hearing cases that involve parties in which they hold a financial interest or in which their spouses or minor children have a financial interest.

Despite that ban, an investigation by the Wall Street Journal found that 131 federal judges oversaw 685 court cases in the last decade involving companies in which they or their families owned stock.

A separate ethics bill advanced by the Senate Judiciary Committee last week would require the U.S. Supreme Court to adopt a code of conduct and to adopt disclosure rules for gifts, travel and income, according to Law360 and a press release. The bill also requires review panels of judges or justices to review denied requests for recusal.

That bill—known as the Supreme Court Ethics, Recusal and Transparency Act—faces “a steep climb through Congress” because of opposition by some Republicans, Law360 reports in a separate story.

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