Bill Aims to Prevent Federal Judges from Reading the Volokh Conspiracy:

From now on, federal judges will only be allowed to read blogs sponsored by the Federal Judicial Center, a government organization.

Well, not quite, but pending legislation does aim to prevent federal judges from attending seminars put on by George Mason's Law School's Law and Economics Center, among other educational centers. According to John Fund, who provides a detailed critique, the bill "would flatly ban federal judges from attending anything other than a government-sponsored program" [but see update beow].

If so, why let federal judges read the Volokh Conspiracy (and I know several prominent federal appellate judges who do)? After all, though most of us conspirators teach at state schools, we have not been vetted by the FJC. Three of us even teach at George Mason, and receive Summer research funding from the LEC. And as for the red herring of "corporate funding" (the LEC, for example, gets less than 10% of its funding from corporations, and does not disclose the funders, so there will be no question of quid pro quo), have you noticed that the VC carries ads? Sure, the VC doesn't provide transportation or accommodations, but we do provide the best legal commentary on the web for free. Given the implicit value of our time, this is much more valuable than an off-season stay at a resort. And we don't even demand that judges spend many hours doing background reading, unlike the LEC!

This whole non-issue has been stirred up by Doug Kendall's Soros-funded Community Rights Council. Recall that Kendall filed an ethics complaint against Sixth Circuit Judge Danny Boggs for serving on the board of FREE, a Montana-based free market environmentalist group that, among other things, runs education seminars for federal judges. Chief Judge Loken rejected the complaint, and wrote, "Reasonable people, unlike the complainant, do not presume a lack of integrity and impartiality from a judge's association with legitimate judicial education, no matter how controversial." And later (alluding also to related allegations against D.C. Circuit Judge Doug Ginsburg): "there is no factual foundation to support an inference of wrongdoing by anyone ... Rather these allegations typify the character assassination that is all too common in our nation's capital.... By use of this tactic, it is the complainant who is undermining public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary, not the judges complained of."

UPDATE: Tim Dowling from the CRC writes to point out that under the proposed legislation, federal judges would be able to attend (and receive travel reimbursements for) any "CLE sponsored by any bar association, any judicial association (including the National Judicial College and Federal Judicial Center), subject-matter bar associations, and the ABA's Judicial Division." Makes sense, because we all know that bar associations only have the public interest in mind, don't serve the cause of any particular interest group (such as attorneys...), and never take positions on controversial issues, right? And the Federal Judicial Center has money that grows on trees, and therefore is not susceptible to political pressure because Congress provides no funding, right? Well, anyway, we all know that giving government and self-serving interest groups a monopoly over any sort of education is the way to achieve high quality, apolitical, effective education.

Snarkiness aside, I'm puzzled by the inclusion of the NJC in the exemptions, given that it's a private 501(C)(3) organization that accepts donations from private sources, just like, say, the LEC. Among its donors are Exxon Mobil, Dow Chemical, and a couple of tort reform groups. Sounds to me like the CRC is not standing for any principle here other than wanting to shut down the LEC and FREE. [Besides receiving funding from Congress, the FJC also receives funding from private, and at times highly ideological sources, e.g., the Ford Foundation, which it actively solicits.]

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. More on the Judicial Education Bill:
  2. The Strange Effort to Limit Judicial Education:
  3. Bill Aims to Prevent Federal Judges from Reading the Volokh Conspiracy: