Wyoming receives failing grade for financial disclosure rules for justices

Dec 12, 2013

An investigation by the Center for Public Integrity gave the Wyoming Supreme Court’s financial disclosure rules an ‘F.’

42 states and the District of Columbia received failing grades. According to the study, Wyoming’s grade suffered because the state’s Code of Judicial Conduct does not require that justices disclose their investments or liabilities and because judges do not have to report gifts given to family members.

The Center’s Reity O’brien, who worked on the investigation, says “the more that the public knows about the finances of these Supreme Court Justices, the more they can trust the work of the court. And it can be assured that the law and the justices’ interpretation of the law are the only things informing their decisions on the bench.” 

The report uncovered examples of questionable gifts and found that justices or their family members sometimes owned stock in companies appearing before the court. Wyoming did not have any such examples, but O’Brien says there also wasn’t much information to go on.

“I think a lot of these judges are perfectly ethical and well intentioned and highly educated and it may well be that there aren’t any conflicts of interest,” O’brien says. “But you don’t know what you can’t see and in Wyoming the public doesn’t see much about the financial interest of their judges.”

However, the report also commended Wyoming for its rule requiring a special court made up of district judges to preside over investigations about Supreme Court justices.

Wyoming’s Supreme Court declined to comment on the investigation’s findings.