Judge not

Jul 5, 2000 at 12:00 am
The Washington Post last week went nipping at the heels of 14 federal judges – including two from Michigan – who filed financial disclosure documents without reporting that they attended expense-free seminars sponsored by corporations and right-wing foundations.

Federal law requires judges to disclose any gift or expense reimbursement valued at $250 or more. According to the Post, however, ethics experts could think of no instances where a judge had been disciplined for not reporting such a trip.

Among those judges named in the Post story were Ralph B. Guy Jr. of the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Ann Arbor and U.S. District Court Judge Paul V. Gadola in Flint.

Guy told the Post that the missing information was an "oversight" on his part.

Gadola didn’t respond to the Post, but he did talk to News Hits. The judge admitted he "inadvertently" failed to report attending one seminar but that he wasn’t trying to hide anything. He pointed out that he has attended several of these events, and that all the other trips were duly noted.

"In fact, I plan on attending another one in August," said Gadola.

The seminars are hosted by two organizations – the Law and Economics Center at George Mason University and the nonprofit Foundation for Research on Economics and the Environment (FREE) in Montana.

As noted in the Post, FREE’s events are paid for by such groups as Richard Mellon Scaife’s far-right Carthage Foundation, and foundations associated with Amoco and Shell Oil.

Nonetheless, Gadola insisted there were no attempts at intellectual influence-peddling going on at the seminars he’s attended. As evidence, he cited the background reading list for one conference that had attendees brushing up on the writings of John Locke, Jean Jacques Rousseau and Alexis de Tocqueville.

"I reject the idea that they are somehow trying to contaminate the minds of federal judges," said Gadola. "These seminars are very informative, very educational, with very deep, heavy stuff."

Gadola also bristled at the Post describing the Montana locale of FREE’s seminars as a "resort."

"It’s anything but a resort," he observed. "It’s out in the middle of the woods on what’s euphemistically called a ranch, but is really an old stagecoach stop on the way to Yellowstone. We stay in cabins that don’t even have TV sets. It’s all very rustic, very remote."

A cabin in the woods at an old stagecoach stop near Yellowstone National Park with nothing to break the monotony of horseback riding and long serene hikes – just think how many judges those fools at FREE could be pulling in if they just held these things someplace nice. Like, maybe downtown Detroit. In mid-February.

De Tocqueville would surely dig it.

Ann Mullen contributed to News Hits, which is edited by Curt Guyette. He can be reached at 313-202-8004 or [email protected]