Ralph Waldo Emerson: When you strike at a king you must kill him.

“In a bombshell diversion from his contempt-of-court proceedings, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio testified under oath Thursday that his attorneys had hired a private agent to investigate the wife of the federal judge who ruled that the Sheriff’s Office had engaged in racial profiling.”  Megan Cassidy, Arapio: PI Hired to investigate judge’s wife, The Republic | azcentral.com (April 24, 2015) from How Appealing (April 24, 2015). Sheriff Joe shot at the judge and appears to have missed.

Although somewhat different, this reminds me of the “nuke” dump case where I awarded around $151 million to low level nuclear waste generators against Nebraska because Nebraska had grievously breached the duty of “good faith” under an agreement between states created under the Compact Clause of the Constitution. Entergy Arkansas Nebraska v. Nebraska, 226 F.Supp.2d 1047 (D. Neb. 2002), aff’d 358 F.3d 528 (2004). The decision was wildly unpopular in Nebraska.

During the course of the trial, and pursuant to standard practice, I was informed by the Administrative Office of the United States Courts that a reporter from the Nebraska Public Television and Radio system had requested, and was supplied with copies, of my financial disclosure reports that must be filed annually. Since NETV&Radio is an organ of state government, and the State of Nebraska was a defendant, I immediately advised counsel that a representative of Nebraska (or some one closely related to Nebraska) was investigating my financial disclosure reports and that I was aware of such activity. I received no response from the litigants, and the trial proceeded apace.

Since my financial disclosure reports indicate that I have never owned stocks or bonds in any corporations (I was probably the “poorest” judge nominated by Bush 41 and that situation has not changed much), the reporter evidently found nothing of interest. Ironically, the reporter could have gotten my disclosure reports from our Clerk of Court and would I not have been the wiser as I deposit a copy of that report with Clerk and I have instructed her to make copies available to anyone without notice to me.*

Federal judges know that from time to time litigants investigate their backgrounds to find embarrassing information about the judge. It comes with the territory. My only advice about doing so is captured in the title to this post, particularly if you have any reason to think your investigation will become public. Otherwise, you risk the appearance of being both slimy and ham–handed. Not unlike Sheriff Joe.

RGK

*For my most recent financial disclosure report, click here. It is a quick read.

PS. By the way, I love Nebraska Educational TV.  It is my main source of TV viewing, and each year Joan and I contribute a little money to it. That said, and despite rumors to the contrary, we do not watch the Lawrence Welk show when ETV rebroadcasts it.

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