"On their honor: Judges and their assets" is a two-part series that emerged from several months of work by special projects reporter Joe Stephens.
Stephens collected hundreds of pages of documents listing the financial assets of judges in four courthouses, then matched the litigants in each case handled by each judge in recent years against the judge's portfolio. Stephens then reviewed his findings with judges, lawyers, litigants and legal experts.
Sunday: Federal judges preside over lawsuits against companies in which they have a financial interest even though federal law prohibits it.
Monday: It's hard to find out what stocks judges own, and misconduct complaints against judges almost never result in discipline.
Stephens has worked on numerous investigative stories since joining The Kansas City Star in 1987.
Stephens, 38, won a George Polk Award in 1995 for a series of stories about riverboat casinos, their political connections and the power of big money. The series focused on Missouri House Speaker Bob Griffin, who later pleaded guilty to bribery and fraud.
In 1996, Stephens revealed that a vice chairman of Bob Dole's presidential campaign provided his employees stacks of $100 bills and directed them to make individual political contributions in their own names.
As a result, Simon Fireman and his company pleaded guilty to 74 counts of violating federal campaign-finance laws. Fireman was sentenced to six months'
confinement and $6 million in fines _ 10 times the previous record fine for campaign violations.
Joe Stephens can be reached by calling 234-4800, extension 4427, or by sending e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.