Should members of the LSU Board of Supervisors disclose who receives their scholarships?|
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|Financial disclosure and judges|
When the Louisiana Senate was in the midst of debating, and eventually approving, legislation that called on members of the Legislature to adhere to personal financial disclosure requirements, senators agreed to give judges a pass in doing the same.
Instead, senators passed a resolution urging judges to voluntarily follow the Legislature's lead in making available the sources of income and some liabilities concerning each lawmaker and local officials.
At one point in the legislative process during the current special session on ethics reform, state Supreme Court Justice Kitty Kimball testified before a House committee. Kimball opined that the Legislature could be overstepping its constitutional authority in requiring judges in all levels of the judiciary to report personal financial matters. In other words, Kimball questioned whether state lawmakers possessed the authority to impose their will on the judicial branch.
In the spirit of trying to accommodate the Legislature's wishes to pass a law aimed at providing some transparency in government, Kimball offered that the Supreme Court would govern itself and every other judge in Louisiana in the financial disclosure arena. It would do it by adopting financial disclosure requirements that mirrored the ones the Legislature imposed on itself.
The House ignored Kimball's remarks, or her effort to extend an olive branch, for the lack of a better description.
Instead, representatives approved a financial disclosure bill that included legislators, local officials and the judges as well.
Along the way, state Supreme Court Chief Justice Pascal Calogero Jr. sent a letter to Speaker of the House Jim Tucker and Senate President Joel Chaisson II.
In his letter, Calogero gave his word the Supreme Court would adopt its own financial disclosure requirements for all judges by June 15 if the Legislature backed off from including judges in its financial disclosure legislation. The letter also said the Supreme Court's requirements would mirror the ones the Legislature approved for its members and local elected officials.
At the present time, it appears the Legislature will go along with the Supreme Court's desire to govern its own.
Agreeing to allow judges to police themselves would be the safe and wise course of action for the Legislature to take.
If lawmakers embark on a path that imposes their views on the judiciary, a court challenge is likely.
That challenge probably would find its way to the state Supreme Court.
If justices deal with a court case that involves financial disclosure concerning the judiciary, the Legislature most likely will not like the outcome, meaning the entire personal financial disclosure law could be declared unconstitutional.
At the end of the day, it is the justices of the state Supreme Court who interpret what the state constitution says or will allow.
That interpretation includes the scope of the Legislature's authority.