June 13, 2019

Whitehouse Slams Meaningless Supreme Court Travel Disclosures

Washington, DC – Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), a senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, issued the following statement on travel disclosures released today from the Supreme Court:

“These disclosures fall woefully short of the transparency Americans deserve from top federal judges who are not subject to ethics rules.  Particularly when the Court has become so politicized, and so surrounded by anonymous dark-money interests, real transparency matters.  It’s too late to find out about extravagant travel when a Supreme Court justice passes away at a luxury hunting resort. 

“Transparency matters when life tenure and sweeping power to shape American law come with a seat on the federal courts.  This, however, is not transparency.”

Current travel and gift disclosure requirements are inadequate.  The Ethics Reform Act of 1989 requires that judges’ financial disclosure reports include only the “identity of the source and a brief description (including a travel itinerary, dates, and nature of expenses provided) of reimbursements” over certain dollar threshold, currently set at $390.   However, judges and justices are not required to identify the dollar value of the reimbursement, and are exempted entirely from reporting any gifts in the form of  “food, lodging, or entertainment received as personal hospitality.” 


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