Kentucky suffers from weak financial disclosure requirements of its state Supreme Court justices, says a report released Wednesday.
In its report, the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Public Integrity gave the state an “F” grade for its weak enforcement of existing financial disclosure requirements for top judges; an inability to discern conflicts of interests because the state does not require judges to submit the names of companies in which they hold a financial interest; and no disclosure requirement regarding gifts and reimbursements to judges.
Out of a total 100 points, Kentucky scored a total of 15, and did not earn any points in the following areas of disclosure:
- Is the judge required to disclose his/her household income?
- Is the judge required to disclose investments (including real estate) for judge, spouse and dependent children?
- Is the judge required to disclose gifts and reimbursements given to the judge, spouse and dependent children?
- s the judge required to disclose liabilities of judge, spouse and dependent children?
The report also found strengths, however, namely that Supreme Court judges “who fail to file or who report fraudulent information risk losing their seat on the bench.”
The report highlighted the financial and real estate holdings of Supreme Court Justice Will T. Scott, which include “dozens of tracts of Kentucky real estate, many of which he leases to coal, oil and natural gas companies,” and whose names he disclosed— unlike his colleagues.
Scott told the Center in a phone interview that he would “welcome more robust financial disclosure requirements” to state law.
A request for comment from the Kentucky Administrative Office of the Courts has not been returned.
Leigh Anne Hiatt, a spokeswoman for the Kentucky Administrative Office of the Courts, provided the following response:
Regarding the results of the CPI report, Kentucky is one of about 30 states in which the state legislature determines the financial disclosure information required of justices and judges. All Kentucky justices and judges must file annual financial disclosure information with the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance pursuant to Kentucky statute. The financial disclosure form can be found on the website of the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance. The General Assembly would have to authorize changes to these disclosure requirements.
In addition, judges adhere to ethical standards as defined in the Kentucky Code of Judicial Conduct, which require judges to recuse themselves from cases in which they have a conflict of interest.
Nationally, Kentucky was one of 43 states to receive a failing grade for its judicial financial disclosure laws, with only three states (Montana, Idaho and Utah) and the District of Columbia scoring lower.
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