Wyoming lacks rules requiring state Supreme Court justices to disclose their debts, investments and real estate, according to a new report.
But the report, by the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Public Integrity, did not find any instances when Wyoming’s justices ruled on cases in which they had a financial interest.
Still, Reity O’Brien, who did research for the report, said Wyoming should toughen its judicial financial disclosure rules. If Wyoming’s justices were required to disclose debts, investments and real estate for themselves, their spouses and their dependents, the public would feel more confident that justices aren't deciding cases in which they have a financial interest, she said.
“The more the public knows about the finances of these people at the top of the state judiciary, the more they can trust the judges on these high courts,” she said.
The Center for Public Integrity describes itself as using investigative journalism techniques to reveal abuses of power and corruption in areas such as politics, the environment, health and national security. The report identified 14 cases nationally in which judges participated in cases that involved parties that they or their spouses had a financial interest in.
Joann Odendahl, administrator for the Wyoming Supreme Court, had no comment on the report.
O’Brien said that she and colleagues at the Center for Public Integrity compared the judicial rules for each state and Washington, D.C., to the information on the forms filed annually by U.S. Supreme Court justices and federal judges. Wyoming’s rules are called the Code of Judicial Conduct.
Wyoming was among 43 states that received an F grade in the report.
Wyoming got credit for making justice financial disclosure forms available online, becoming the eighth state to post them after the Center for Public Integrity researchers asked, O’Brien said.
In early January, the justices signed and turned in the forms for the previous year. Chief Justice Marilyn Kite and Justices William Hill, E. James Burke and Michael Davis received no compensation for quasi-judicial or extra-judicial activities in 2012, according to their forms.
Justice Barton Voigt said he received $731.40 in reimbursement for travel expenses to three conferences of the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, an organization in which he's involved.