H.R. 4419, District of Columbia Judicial Financial Transparency Act

H.R. 4419

District of Columbia Judicial Financial Transparency Act

Sponsor
Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton

Date
September 20, 2016 (114th Congress, 2nd Session)

Staff Contact
John Huston

Floor Situation

On­­­­ Tuesday, September 20, 2016, the House will consider H.R. 4419, District of Columbia Judicial Financial Transparency Act, under suspension of the rules. H.R. 4419 was introduced on February 1, 2016, by Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) and was referred to the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, which ordered the bill reported on July 12, 2016 by voice vote.

Bill Summary

H.R. 4419 would strengthen disclosure requirements for judges in the District of Columbia. The bill aligns financial disclosure requirements for District judges with those required for federal judges. Additionally, the bill includes various other measures to improve the operations of the D.C. courts. Specifically, it authorizes the use of magistrate judges to serve in the Probate Division; grants the D.C. courts authority to accept credits cards, other forms of electronic funds transfer, and checks; increases the jurisdictional amount of the Small Claims and Conciliation Branch of the D.C. Superior Court from $5,000 to $10,000; and allows chief judges of the Superior Court and the Court of Appeals to delegate authority to approve certain vouchers.

Background

Federal judicial officers are required to provide extensive financial disclosures under the Ethics in Government Act of 1978. The Act requires that certain officers and employees of the federal government disclose information on their financial dealings so as to prevent an appearance of corruption or bias. Once a report is filed, the Act requires that the filed report be made publicly available for a period of six years.[1]

In 1970, Congress passed the District of Columbia Court Reorganization Act, which, among other things, established financial disclosure requirements for District judges. The D.C. Home Rule Act prohibits the District government from passing any law with respect to any provision of the financial disclosure requirements for District judges.[2]

The District’s disclosure requirements are far less stringent than those for federal judges and have been insufficiently transparent. This shortcoming was made clear in May of 2014 when the Center for Public Integrity reviewed financial disclosure requirements for the District, the federal government, and the States.[3] The review placed the District among the worst examples of financial disclosure, assigning the disclosure requirements a failing grade. Even though DC has fairly extensive financial disclosure requirements compared with most states, these disclosure forms are sealed and not available for public review.

H.R. 4419, is similar to S. 2966, which ordered to be reported by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs on May 25, 2016.

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[1] See House Report 114-745
[2] Id.
[3] Id.

Cost

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates enacting H.R. 5690 would have no significant effect on the federal budget.

Additional Information

For questions or further information please contact John Huston with the House Republican Policy Committee by email or at 6-5539.