By: Jason Williams
APBnews.com Was Denied Earlier Requests
When it comes to exploring the pockets of federal judges, it seems size does
Nearly three months after a federal judiciary panel denied a request by online
news site APBnews.com for the financial-disclosure records of the 1,600 federal
judges, The Spokesman-Review of Spokane, Wash., published the financial
reports of six of its state’s federal district court judges on its Web site.
The Spokane daily’s Web site listed the businesses, investments, trusts,
agreements, reimbursements, gifts, and liabilities of each judge.
APBnews’ request for similar documents was denied in December on grounds
that online publication of the financial-disclosure forms could ‘endanger the filer,’
the court stated in its ruling. Furthermore, online publication would violate the
Ethics in Government Act of 1978, which ‘prohibits disclosure of a report to any
person who has not made a written application ? stating that the person is aware
of the prohibitions on obtaining or use of the report.’
A spokesperson for the administrative offices of the courts told APBnews.com
that the Spokesman-Review did not seem to be in violation of the policy by
posting the disclosure reports online because the court had not been told the
information would be used online.
Karen Dorn Steele, the Spokesman-Review reporter who wrote the story, said
they had not decided if they were going to post the results online at the time of the
request, and therefore had requested them only for the print edition.
‘It just seems unfair,’ says Dorn Steele. ‘If you tell them you’re going to put it
online, as APBnews.com does, than that becomes the criteria for denying you. It
seems really capricious.’
The court spokesperson also said the volume of the request was considered.
APBnews had asked for the records of all 1,600 federal judges, over 12,850
documents that it planned to post in a searchable database, while the newspaper’s
request was relatively small, focusing on Eastern Washington.
The Spokesman-Review ‘s online list is the first known of since APBnews’
request was denied. Prior to that, The Kansas City Star and WNBC-TV in New
York posted judges’ financial disclosures on their Web sites.
Jason Williams ( email@example.com ) is a reporter
for Editor & Publisher magazine .
(c) Copyright 2000, Editor & Publisher