Press Releases

Chairman Nadler Floor Statement in Support of H.R. 5720, the Courthouse Ethics and Transparency Act of 2021

Washington, December 1, 2021

Washington, D.C. - Today, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) delivered the following statement, as prepared, on the House floor in support of H.R. 5720, the Courthouse Ethics and Transparency Act of 2021:

"H.R. 5720, the 'Courthouse Ethics and Transparency Act of 2021,' embodies an important bipartisan effort to address an alarming lack of transparency in the personal financial holdings of federal judges, and the conflicts—or appearance of conflicts—those holdings can create in the cases those judges are asked to decide.

"This legislation makes incremental but necessary progress toward accountability by building on federal statutes that already prohibit judges from deciding cases in which they have a personal financial stake in the outcome.

"It has been the law in this county since the 1970s that judges must recuse themselves from any case in which they hold a legal or equitable interest—of any size—in any party or property under consideration.  To help ensure that recusals occur as required, federal law also requires judges to file annual reports disclosing their personal financial interests so that litigants, the press, and the general public can check their work.

"Unfortunately, recent reporting by prominent media outlets, and a hearing by the Courts Subcommittee, have shown that the law is not working as intended.  The infrequency of judges’ financial disclosures and the inaccessibility of the reports themselves have made actual transparency practically impossible.

"The result is recent investigative reporting revealing that over 130 federal judges have decided cases in which they are part-owners of the parties before them; over 60 judges have actively traded shares in the parties in their courtrooms while their cases are still going on, in some cases profiting on those trades.

"The consequences of these actions are both acute and widespread:  failures to recuse can cause real harm to the parties whose cases are impacted and can leave a cloud of doubt over any law created from these cases once the conflicts are uncovered.  Perhaps even more concerning, when the public sees members of their judiciary behaving in such a manner, their faith in their system of justice can be withered by cynicism and suspicion.

"H.R. 5720 addresses these problems by requiring federal judges to abide by the same periodic transaction reporting laws already applicable to Members of Congress and senior Executive Branch officials. 

"Further, the bill requires the Administrative Office of the United States Courts to create an online database of judicial financial disclosure reports and to timely update that database with searchable, sortable, and downloadable copies of disclosure reports as they become available, so that litigants, the press, and the public can access and analyze that information in close to real time.

"These simple solutions are long-overdue and are the product of bipartisan, bicameral collaboration.  I want to thank Congresswoman Ross and Congressman Issa for their leadership on this issue and for introducing this legislation.  I also appreciate Ranking Member Jordan for working with us on this bill and I want to thank Hank Johnson, Chairman of the Subcommittee on the Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet, for holding a hearing exposing the issues this bill addresses.

"I urge all my colleagues to support this legislation, and I reserve the balance of my time."