The Center for Public Integrity evaluated the disclosure rules for judges in the highest state courts nationwide. The level of disclosure in the 50 states and the District of Columbia was poor, with 43 receiving failing grades, making it difficult for the public to identify potential conflicts of interest on the bench. Despite the lack of information in the public records, the Center’s investigation found nearly three dozen conflicts, questionable gifts and entanglements among top judges around the country. Here’s what the Center found in New Hampshire:
Despite a failing grade, New Hampshire scored better than average and ranked 21st, tied with Oregon.
The state sets high thresholds for when judges need to report information. Judges must report stock ownership, for example, only if the judge or anyone in the household owned 1 percent or more of all available stock in a company. Judges must disclose reimbursed expenses only if the amount received exceeds the actual cost of the travel or event. The information sought for real estate is also limited: judges must report only the city or town in which the land is located and a description of how the property is used.
New Hampshire’s highest court faced a crisis in 2000, when one justice resigned to avoid criminal charges related to meddling in his own divorce trial and three other judges faced impeachment proceedings for allegations of participating in cases in which they had disqualified themselves due to a conflict of interest. Subsequent reforms led to the formation of a commission that screens candidates for judgeships and gives the governor recommendations for which to nominate.