A group that has received funding from foundations created by Mr. George Soros, pompously named the Center for Public Integrity, has published another one of those reports about federal judges attending seminars funded by large corporations and conservative nonprofits. See Corporations, pro-business nonprofits foot bill for judicial seminars (March 28, 2013).
The report is interactive and allows the reader to search for judges by name, court, title of the seminar and location of the seminar. It also lists the funding entities or persons who contributed to each of the seminars.
The Center got most of the data from public reports judges are required to make each year. Those reports are available on each federal court’s web site, and they are kept for three years.
In 2009, I attended one of the “junkets” to Northwestern University and I am listed in the report as having done so. I was reimbursed for my expenses which totaled less than $815 and that reimbursement was fully disclosed on my financial disclosure report. While no one from the Center for Public Integrity called to ask why I attended, I would have been happy to disclose that I attended primarily because I wanted to hear Judge Posner speak and because I was interested in one of the topics dealing with the “New Science of Judicial Behavior.” As it turned out, the seminar was boring, and I left early.
Why am I writing this post? I am deeply disturbed by the “Caesar’s wife” syndrome that the Center and other do-gooders are obsessed with when it comes to federal judges. That is, the idea that judges are supposed to comport themselves as Julius Caesar demanded of his wife Pompeia. In my view, this way of thinking is corrupt. After all, Caesar was a vain jerk. His decision to divorce his wife because his reputation was more important than the truth is a perfect example of the decadence that brought down Rome.
Since 1987, when I became a magistrate judge, I have elected not to vote and I have not even registered to vote. I have withdrawn from all civic groups. I have severed all connections with religious institutions like a church or synagogue or mosque. I socialize virtually not at all. I gave up my law license when I withdrew from membership in Nebraska’s integrated bar association. My financial disclosure reports and recusal lists are posted on our court’s web site for all to see for free. I have owned no stocks. I could go on.**
Now, please put the Center for Public Integrity’s report of my attendance at the sleepy little seminar into the full context of my judicial life. Far more importantly, do the same for each and every other federal judge listed in the report. Crudely put, the authors of the Center’s report would not recognize judicial integrity if it bit them in the ass.
I urge those who are sincerely interested in the federal judiciary to ignore groups like the Center for Public Integrity when they publish tripe of the kind represented by the report. Caesar was wrong to punish and impugn the integrity of his wife for the sake of his reputation. In like manner, the Center for Public Integrity is wrong to promote an ideal that finds it roots in the decay of Rome.
*It is believed that the drawing of Pompeai was published by Guillaume Rouille (1518-1589). In any event, the work is in the public domain because it was published (or registered with the U.S. Copyright Office) before January 1, 1923.
**These were my choices. I do not recommend them to anyone else.