Wiretapping Judge and Conflict of Interest
Judicial Watch has investigated the financial records of Judge Anna Diggs Taylor, who last week ruled the NSA electronic surveillance program unconstitutional, may have a conflict of interest.
According to her 2003 and 2004 financial disclosure statements, Judge Diggs Taylor served as Secretary and Trustee for the Community Foundation for Southeastern Michigan (CFSEM). She was reelected to this position in June 2005. The official CFSEM website states that the foundation made a “recent grant” of $45,000 over two years to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Michigan, a plaintiff in the wiretapping case. Judge Diggs Taylor sided with the ACLU of Michigan in her recent decision.
A minor blogswarm is brewing over this, with Greg Tinti making the best case that this is really an issue, noting the outrage over then-Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito’s relationship to the Vanguard Company.
Still, like Patrick Frey, while I find the reasoning in her opinion in this case strained, to say the least, I don’t see this as a big deal. Federal judges often serve on boards for groups with some public policy advocacy positions. Ruth Bader Ginsburg doesn’t recuse herself from cases involving feminist groups nor did Thurgood Marshall recuse himself from cases argued by his successors at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.
Judges have ideological biases and there’s not much getting around that. So long as they have no financial stake or otherwise have a personal interest in the outcome of the case, they’re not required to sit on the sidelines. Indeed, it would be difficult to have some high profile cases tried if that were the case, given that most federal judges have had long careers as political animals before and sometimes during their tenures.