24 June 2010

Junkets for Judges. Or…How the Elite Protect the Elite.

When Judge Marty Feldman issued his stay a couple of days ago on the drilling moratorium in the Gulf (following the disaster caused by BP/Halliburton/TransOcean/et al.), once again the right wingnuts cheered another judicial decision favoring the corporations over the people. Never mind that another one of these little spills would further devastate the area, and that the upcoming hurricane season might be a little issue to new wells. But on further review, a letter dated yesterday from Judge Feldman to the Committee on Financial Disclosure of the U.S. Courts notes, “This is to advise that the Exxon stock noted on line 140 of my 2009 Financial Disclosure Report was sold at the opening of the stock market on June 22, 2010 prior to the opening of a Court hearing on the Oil Spill Moratorium case.” Well thank the FSM that he sold his oil stocks the day he made the decision. I’m sure his mind was free from any bias. I didn’t see, however, if he sold any of his other oil/energy stocks. Wouldn’t be a nice world if judges could make decisions that wouldn’t affect their account balances?

There is an outfit called The “Foundation for Research on Economics & the Environment (FREE),” which hosts “Junkets” for federal judges. From the FREE website, their donor list for 2009 includes ExxonMobil and many conservative foundations, including one of the Scaife foundations. From their website again,

FREE accepts general support from private foundations, corporations, and individuals. However, we do not accept any corporate support for federal judges conferences. We reimburse judges’ expenses (e.g., lodging, meals, and travel) with funds only from foundations whose principal founder is deceased, whose operation and oversight are independent of any corporate entity, and which do not participate in litigation in the federal courts.

So what are they saying? They pay federal judges to come be lobbied while they play golf, fish and ride horses, but they pay them from funds not related to the cases the judges may be hearing. O.K. Sounds real legit.

What interested me about this story was that the Appeals Court that will likely hear the case regarding the stay of the moratorium. Two of the federal judges, Judge Jerry Edwin Smith (Reagan Appointee) and Judge William Eugene Davis (Ford Appointee) have both attended junkets paid for by the right-wing think-tank FREE. A third judge on the panel, Judge James L. Dennis, is also heavily invested in oil and energy, and at one time was a shareholder of TransOcean.

As Leonard Cohen once sang, “Everybody knows the dice are loaded…”

Filed under:La Voz del Norte — la voz @ 21:05 pm

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