These federal appeals judges accepted trip reimbursements from groups filing amicus briefs

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Legal advocacy groups paid some expenses for federal judges’ appearances at six events in 2013, including three instances in which the groups submitted amicus briefs in cases later decided by those judges, according to a legal newspaper’s investigation.

The National Law Journal (sub. req.) reviewed 257 financial reports filed last year by federal judges covering expenses reimbursed in 2013, according to this story. The reports disclose reimbursements for airfare, hotels, meals and other expenses worth at least $375. The NLJ’s stories on the trip reimbursements are here and here.

Federal judges are permitted to accept reimbursement for speaking engagements, though their code of conduct says they must avoid the “appearance of impropriety” or influence when they accept the money.

The publication found:

• The Christian legal advocacy group Alliance Defending Freedom reimbursed two judges for trips: Judge Alice Batchelder of the Cincinnati-based 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and Judge Bobby Baldock of the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. A federal judiciary spokesman said Batchelder spoke to the group’s summer training program for Christian law students about the challenges of maintaining their faith in a secular profession.

Alliance Defending Freedom filed amicus briefs in cases argued in 2014 and decided earlier this year by panels that included Batchelder. In both cases, Batchelder wrote the opinion and ruled for the side supported by Alliance Defending Freedom. Lawyers in the cases said they didn’t see any problem with Batchelder’s involvement.

• The Claremont Institute, a conservative think tank, reimbursed Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain of the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for a 2013 trip. At the time of the trip, the Institute’s Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence had filed an amicus brief in a case pending before O’Scannlain; the judge later wrote an opinion that struck down a gun permitting policy that was opposed in the brief.

A Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence official told the NLJ the group was walled off from institute programming. A lawyer involved in the case told the NLJ he wasn’t troubled by O’Scannlain’s involvement. And a 9th Circuit spokesperson said O’Scannlain, “like many of his colleauges,” doesn’t recuse when a filer is neither a party nor counsel, unless there is an appearance of impropriety.

• Judge Alex Kozinski reported that the American Civil Liberties Union paid for his sandwich. The ACLU appeared before Kozinski in several cases.

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