September 28, 2010

Judicial transparency needs work

The RJ nails it:

The judge who attempted to overturn the Obama administration's moratorium on deep-water oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico following this summer's BP oil spill owned up to $15,000 in Exxon Mobil stock and that company had one of the 33 existing exploratory rigs shut down by the drilling ban.

But the public did not know U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman owned Exxon Mobil stock because his financial disclosure report -- though required by law -- was not available.

While Judge Feldman might have reached the same decision even if he didn't own any Exxon Mobil stock, the fact that he did leaves a cloud hanging over his decision.

Our judiciary only works when the people trust its independence. Simple appearances of impropriety are enough to erode that trust. If Judge Feldman had cared about the public trust, he should have recused himself from the proceedings immediately upon learning of his financial ties to Exxon Mobil.