newsbill in congress would require federal judges to place stocks in blind trusts

Bill in Congress would require federal judges to place stocks in blind trusts

Chris Graham
supreme court
(© SeanPavonePhoto –

The idea that Clarence Thomas has been bought and paid for is bringing a renewed focus in Congress on financial conflicts of interest of federal judges and the Supreme Court.

A group of House Democrats has introduced the Justice is Beneficial Limitation on Investments and Necessary Disclosure Act – styled the BLIND Act – that would require federal judges and justices, as well as their spouses and dependent children, to place individual stocks that may present conflicts of interest with cases they are deciding in a qualified blind trust.

Seventh District Virginia Democrat Abigail Spanberger is one of the bill’s co-sponsors, along with Adam Schiff (D-CA-30) and Hank Johnson (D-GA-04), ranking member on the U.S. House Judiciary Committee’s Courts Subcommittee.

Spanberger has been leading efforts in Congress to limit the ability of members of Congress and their families to own stocks, presenting the reasoning that owning stocks may create conflicts of interests for lawmakers.

“I’ve long made clear that public servants should be focused on serving the public, not serving their own stock portfolios,” Spanberger said. “As I continue to lead the charge alongside Democrats and Republicans to ban congressional stock trading, I’m proud to introduce this separate effort to ban judges and justices from buying and selling individual stocks.

“Even the mere perception of impropriety erodes the American people’s confidence in our judicial system — and federal judges, particularly our Supreme Court justices, should welcome the opportunity to show that they are invested not in their long-term personal wealth, but in the long-term strength of our republic,” Spanberger said.

The Justice is BLIND Act would require federal judges and justices as well as their spouses and dependent children to place any covered financial interests in a qualified blind trust, and bar them from seeking information about the financial interests placed in such a qualified blind trust beyond their initial assets.

Judges and justices would also be required to attest in writing that they have established a qualified blind trust and that neither they, nor their spouses or dependent children, have any financial interests, and that the information be made available to the public on a searchable online database.

The current system relies on judges and justices to self-report, and that’s clearly not working. The Wall Street Journal reviewed financial disclosures from 2010 to 2018 and found that 131 federal judges heard cases where they had a financial interest, despite existing federal law that requires judges to recuse themselves when their legal decisions may be impacted by their personal financial interests.

“We desperately need to bring ethics back to the Supreme Court – and all our nation’s courts,” said Schiff. “That’s why I am introducing the Justice is BLIND Act, to help ensure that federal judges and justices are making decisions based on the law, and not because of any personal financial interest. Our bill will require that all financial investments and assets owned by judges do not influence their decisions, and are held in a blind trust.”

“We need to trust that judges are deciding cases based on the merits, rather than based on their pocketbooks,” said Johnson. “Judges already have a duty to recuse themselves from cases that could impact their pecuniary interests, but we have seen time and again that many fail to uphold that basic ethical obligation. That’s why we must remove all doubt by requiring federal judges, Supreme Court justices, and their families to place financial assets in a blind trust. It is the only way to ensure that justice will be served.”

Chris Graham

Chris Graham

Chris Graham is the founder and editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1994 alum of the University of Virginia, Chris has won 17 Virginia Press Association awards for his work as an investigative reporter, feature writer and columnist. Chris is the author and co-author of seven books, including Poverty of Imagination and Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, both published in 2019, and The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever, published in 2018. For his commentaries on news, sports and politics, go to his YouTube page, Want to reach Chris? Try [email protected].