On Their Honor: Judges and their assets
By JOE STEPHENS - Staff Writer
Date: 06/30/98 22:15
Jackson County judges are following the lead of their colleagues on the federal bench by making lists of their assets available directly to the public.
The decision short-circuits a longstanding rule requiring the public to travel to Jefferson City to see the reports, which are used to identify potential conflicts of interest.
"They were not as readily and freely available as we thought they ought to be," said Judge Jay A. Daugherty.
Jackson County judges voted last week to begin filing duplicates of the reports at the court administrator's office in Kansas City.
The decision follows a series in The Kansas City Star that described how federal judges make it uncommonly difficult to review the disclosure reports they file in Washington.
In response, federal judges in the Western District of Missouri voted last month to make their reports available locally. Now, federal judges nationwide are considering the system.
The series also prompted Jackson County judges to review the Missouri Supreme Court's disclosure rules, which cover all state courts. That's when they discovered the court would not mail copies to the public but forced them to travel to the capital to collect them.
Jackson County judges decided that was unreasonable.
"Missouri historically has been one of the leaders in the country when it comes to judicial ethics and judicial openness," Daugherty said. "We felt we could be more accessible."
The reports list stocks worth $10,000 or more, corporate offices held, gifts and honoraria, sources of income and relatives employed by Missouri.
Daugherty said it made little sense for judges to complete the reports, then file them where no one would see them. "It was a kind of no-brainer," he said.
Local lawyers applauded the decision.
"The more of that type of disclosure in the system we can get, the better," said attorney Dennis Egan. "Fairness in the system is indispensable. I think it's great."