Quigley, Issa, Panel Urge Financial Transparency within the Supreme Court

Jun 4, 2015

WASHINGTON – Yesterday, U.S. Representative Mike Quigley(IL-05) and Darrell Issa (CA-49), Co-Chairs of the Transparency Caucus, held a briefing on the importance of Supreme Court justices disclosing to the public their financial interests in a more open, consistent and timely manner. Yesterday’s briefing, titled “Financial Transparency and the Supreme Court,” was the third caucus briefing of the 114th Congress.

Reps. Quigley and Issa gave opening remarks, followed by a panelist discussion. Panelists included Noah Bookbinder, Executive Director, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW); Sheila Krumholz, Executive Director, Center for Responsive Politics; Katie Townsend, Litigation Director, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press; Kytja Weir, Project Manager and Reporter, Center for Public Integrity; and Katharine Huffman, Principal, Raben Group. 

“Full and clear financial disclosures on the part of our public officials are one of the strongest tools available to make our nation’s legislative and executive business open and transparent. They increase accountability and guard against conflicts of interest,” said Rep. Quigley. “Yet in our judicial branch, particularly at the Supreme Court level, disclosures of financial interests and benefits are inconsistent and complicated.  The American public has the right to know about any undertakings top public officials engage in that may influence how they conduct business. It is time the Justices are held to the same standards for financial disclosures as members of Congress and high-ranking Executive branch officials.”

“A Supreme Court justice’s financial disclosure report is but one of the few ways the public can be assured that he or she is not deciding cases in which there may be a conflict of interests. But like so many other institutional practices at the high court, the justices’ reports are lacking, both in detail and in oversight,” said Gabe Roth, Executive Director of Fix the Court, a national, nonpartisan grassroots organization created to urge the Supreme Court to increase its accountability and transparency. “Unlike officials in the other two branches, the justices are not bound by the STOCK Act, are without supervision from a branch-specific office of ethics and don’t place their reports online – all of which underscores how the Supreme Court has become our least transparent government institution and is in need of reform. Thank you to Congressmen Quigley and Issa for hosting a discussion on this extremely important topic."

The bipartisan Transparency Caucus serves as a resource for Members of Congress on bipartisan, open government initiatives. The caucus promotes legislation that requires federal information to be freely accessible, as well as advocates for new programs that support transparency.

Rep. Quigley has been advocating for a more open and transparent Supreme Court since his arrival in Washington in 2009. Most recently, he led a letter to Chief Justice John Roberts urging the Supreme Court to allow video and live audio in the chamber in light of the upcoming same-sex marriage cases. Earlier this year, Rep. Quigley re-introduced the Cameras in the Courtroom Act, requiring the Supreme Court to permit television coverage of all open sessions of the Court, this Congress with Rep. Connolly. This past year, he authored an opinion piece in the Chicago Sun-Times arguing for real time – live audio recordings during Supreme Court hearings. Rep. Quigley is the author of the landmark Transparency in Government Act, a wide-ranging good government reform bill that would bring unprecedented access and accountability to the federal government. In 2013, Rep. Quigley raised the issue of permitting video transmission of SCOTUS’ public argument sessions directly with two Supreme Court justices during a House Appropriations Committee hearing.