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Federal judges say they 'mistakenly' broke the law in these cases. Yeah, right.

More than 130 federal judges failed to recuse themselves from lawsuits in which they had a financial conflict of interest, according to a new report.

A report Tuesday in The Wall Street Journal found rampant lawlessness among the federal judiciary, with more than 130 judges hearing cases in which they had a financial interest

The report examined 685 lawsuits in which federal judges had a financial stake in the outcome yet failed to recuse themselves, and the fallout could mean hundreds of cases being overruled. Taken together, the Journal’s findings show the federal court has become a deeply corporatist entity. 

Evidently, being an unscrupulous federal judge is a well-paying gig if you can get it!

The incestuous relationship between the federal bench and large corporations has been decried by progressive activists for years, but the Journal piece puts a finer point on things: Americans are being had by the judiciary.  

Evidently, being an unscrupulous federal judge is a well-paying gig if you can get it! And since judges serve lifetime appointments, these judges can use the courts to siphon cash to their accounts at will. And they have. 

According to the report:

Alerted to the violations by the Journal, 56 of the judges have directed court clerks to notify parties in 329 lawsuits that they should have recused themselves. That means new judges might be assigned, potentially upending rulings. ... When judges participated in such cases, about two-thirds of their rulings on motions that were contested came down in favor of their or their family’s financial interests.

The Journal found judges appointed by both Democratic and Republican presidents — from Lyndon Johnson to Donald Trump — engaged in unethical self-dealing. Federal law since 1974 requires judges to be knowledgeable about their financial interests and the interests of their spouses or children. The judges cited in the report didn’t make the proper disclosures, and they often netted thousands of dollars as a result of ruling favorably for large corporations in which they owned stock. 

And when they were caught, these judges had the weakest excuses imaginable. Here’s one:

“I dropped the ball,” said Judge Lewis Babcock of the U.S. District Court of Colorado when asked about his recusal violation. He blamed flawed internal procedures. “Thank you for helping me stay on my toes the way I’m supposed to.”

The judge in question owned thousands of dollars in Comcast stock and overruled a lawsuit against the company. (Comcast is the parent company of NBC News.)

Photo illustration: A hand holding a gavel over a rising arrow which contains money.
Anjali Nair / MSNBC; Getty Images

And another: 

“I had no idea that I had an interest in any of these companies in what was a most modest retirement account” managed by a broker.

The judge who gave the Journal that quote — Timothy Batten Sr. of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia — owned stock in JPMorgan Chase and reportedly ruled favorably for the bank in several court cases. 

Another judge, Benjamin Settle of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, said he "mistakenly omitted" some of his holdings on his recusal list when he inherited a case involving Amgen Inc. in 2007.

Settle sold as much as $15,000 of his Amgen stock during the case in 2008, while the suit was under seal, according to the Journal.

With 138 violations, Judge Rodney Gilstrap, chief of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, had the largest number of conflicts in the Journal’s analysis. U.S. District Judge Janis Sammartino of the Southern District of California had the second-most recusal violations, with 54. And U.S. District Judge Brian Martinotti for the District of New Jersey ranked third, handling 44 cases involving companies in which he had invested.

Head over to The ReidOut Blog for more.


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