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Letters to the 107th Congress

November 29, 2001

Honorable Thomas A. Daschle
Majority Leader
United States Senate
Washington D.C. 20510

Honorable Trent Lott
Minority Leader
United States Senate
Washington D.C. 20510

RE: Request to Schedule Floor Action on H.R. 2336

Dear Mr. Majority Leader and Mr. Minority Leader:

During these busy last days of the 1st session of the 107th Congress, we hope you will schedule for floor action H.R.2336, which would permanently authorize redaction of certain information on the financial disclosure statements of federal judges and judicial employees whose lives have been threatened. The present redaction authority, conferred by Congress in 1998, sunsets at the end of this year. The House of Representatives passed H.R. 2336 under suspension of the rules on October 16 and the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee ordered it to be reported without amendment on November 14.

H.R. 2336 would repeal the redaction sunset provision of the Ethics in Government Act of 1978 and thereby permanently authorize the Judicial Conference of the United States, in consultation with the U.S. Marshals Service, to withhold from the public life-endangering information contained in financial disclosure reports of federal judges and judicial branch officials. Such information may only be withheld "to the extent necessary" to protect the individual and/or family members, and only for as long as the danger exists. Further, the law requires the Judicial Conference to file annual reports with Congress detailing the number of, and reasons for, the redactions.

Last year's report demonstrates that this carefully circumscribed redaction authority is not being abused by the Third Branch: only six per cent of the judicial filers had their reports redacted in whole or in part. In total, six reports were completely redacted, and 140 were partially redacted. Typically, redacted information consisted of such things as the spouse's place of work, the location of a second home, or the name of a law school at which a judge teaches part-time. In each case of redaction, the Judicial Conference concluded that the judicial officer was under a specific, active security threat.

Federal judges are in a uniquely vulnerable position because the nature of their work may expose them daily to disgruntled litigants, some of whom unfortunately seek revenge. In addition, an unpopular decision with ramifications that extend beyond the litigants may expose that judge to the wrath of any deranged member of society. In today's world, forever changed by the recent acts of terrorism against the United States, our federal judges may be further threatened because they are prominent symbols of our democracy and the embodiment of the rule of law.

H.R. 2336 enjoys bipartisan support and needs to be enacted into law this session to enable the Judicial Conference to continue to redact public information to protect judges and their families. We urge you to use your authority to promptly schedule this legislation for a floor vote.


Robert D. Evans
Director, Governmental Affairs Office

Senator Larry Craig, Chair
Republican Policy Committee

Senator Byron Dorgan, Chair
Democratic Policy Committee

107th Congress Letters Home

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