A recent report says the California Supreme Court is the best of state high courts at making information about justices’ financial interests available to the public. The nonprofit organization Fix the Court — which usually focuses on the federal courts and primarily the U.S. Supreme Court — earlier this month issued “Sorry State of Disclosure: How State Supreme Court Justices Hide Finances and Perks from the Public.”

As its title suggests, the report is primarily an indictment of state courts. It says that “most states appear to be okay with keeping judicial disclosures short on detail and hard to obtain” and it argues, “[w]ith state courts’ power increasing precipitously, stronger oversight tools must be brought to bear.”

The report grades the states with points given for ease of access to disclosures and for the content of disclosures. California has the most points, just ahead of Arkansas and Arizona. Idaho and Utah are at the bottom because, the report says, they “don’t require its top state justices to submit annual financial disclosure reports.”

Fix the Court’s report says it’s following up on a 2013 Center for Public Integrity study, “State supreme court judges reveal scant financial information.” CPI at the time also rated California as the best in the nation, but it was a low bar — California received only a C grade and 42 states plus the District of Columbia got Fs. It mentioned that then-Justice Kathryn Werdegar did not recuse herself when the Supreme Court denied review of a 2012 unpublished opinion (possibly in this case) in favor of Wells Fargo in which she owned between $100,000 and $1,000,000 in stock. The study reported the court “said it will review its internal procedures meant to detect potential conflicts of interest, noting that something went wrong when it failed to discover Justice Werdegar’s financial interest in Wells Fargo.”

As the Fix the Court report states, the California justices’ Statements of Economic Interests can be found on the Fair Political Practices Commission website. It’s not an easy find. You need to scroll down and click on “I Want To . . . View . . . Form 700s Filed by an Elected Official,” select “Search for a Form 700 Filed After September 1, 2016,” then pick “Courts” for the “Entity” and “Supreme Court of California” for the “Agency.”


Justice Corrigan mentioned in article on state court ethics