Washington, D.C.—Today, Congresswoman Deborah Ross’ (D-NC) legislation, the Courthouse Ethics and Transparency Act, passed the U.S. House of Representatives and will head to President Biden’s desk for his signature. The bill was introduced in the House by Representatives Ross, Issa (R-CA), Johnson (D-GA), Roy (R-TX), and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Nadler (D-NY). It was led in the Senate by Senators Coons (D-DE), Cornyn (R-TX), Kennedy (R-LA), Whitehouse (D-RI), Cruz (R-TX), and Ossoff (D-GA), along with Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Durbin (D-IL) and Ranking Member Grassley (R-IA).

This legislation will require online publication of financial disclosure reports for federal judges and mandate that federal judges submit periodic transaction reports for certain securities transactions. Following reporting in the Wall Street Journal that more than 130 federal judges heard cases in which they or their families held stock in a company involved in the proceeding, the bill will strengthen judicial ethics and transparency and help to restore trust in the nation’s courts.

To access a downloadable version of Congresswoman Ross’s speech on the House Floor, click here.

“Our judicial system was founded on the principle of blind justice,” said Congresswoman Ross. “Yet, recent reporting revealed that federal judges have ruled on scores of cases in which they had a personal financial interest. The enactment of our Courthouse Ethics and Transparency Act will improve transparency, accountability, and public faith in the ability of our courts to carry out fair, impartial justice. This bill will hold federal judges to the same financial transaction disclosure requirements as members of the legislative and executive branches of government, eliminating an unwarranted double standard. I’m glad we accomplished this in a bipartisan, bicameral way, and I look forward to seeing President Biden sign the bill into law very soon.”

“The credibility and confidence in our courts is derived from the fair and unbiased work of our judges — which makes an impartial and evenhanded judiciary essential to our nation,” said Congressman Issa. “With this legislation, we achieve accountability of the judicial branch with that of elected officials. It is long overdue.”

“This important and timely bipartisan legislation addresses the alarming lack of transparency in the personal financial holdings of federal judges, and the conflicts—or appearance of conflicts—those holdings can create in the cases those judges are asked to decide,” said Congressman Nadler. “It is critical that the American public have confidence that the federal judges who are deciding on matters of great significance are making decisions based on the law, not their financial holdings. I thank Rep. Ross for her focus on this issue and for putting forward such an impactful bill.”

“Trust and transparency in all branches of government is critical to a healthy, functioning democracy and no less so for our judiciary,” said Congressman Johnson. “I want to thank the Courts Subcommittee for their work and Rep. Ross for putting forward this solutions-based bill to help restore accountability, transparency and integrity to our courts.”

"Federal Judges are increasingly facing cases that involve corporate and other parties that may impact the financial investments and overall wealth of those judges and create conflicts of interest. Trust in our judicial system demands clear impartiality of the judges. In order to improve that trust, judges should be required to disclose their financial interests to the American public, meaning at least adhering to the same standard as currently applied to members of the U.S. House and U.S. Senate," said Congressman Roy. " I am proud to co-lead this bipartisan effort with my colleagues from both chambers of Congress."


The Courthouse Ethics and Transparency Act requires that federal judges’ financial disclosure reports be made publicly available online and mandates that federal judges submit periodic reports of securities transactions in line with other federal officials under the STOCK Act. The bill would amend the Ethics in Government Act of 1978 to:

  • Require the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts to create a searchable online database of judicial financial disclosure forms and post those forms within 90 days of being filed, and
  • Subject federal judges to the STOCK Act’s requirement of filing periodic transaction reports within 45 days of securities transactions over $1,000.

Importantly, the bill also preserves the existing ability of judges to request redactions of personal information on financial disclosure reports due to a security concern.

Under current ethics guidelines and federal law, federal judges are prohibited from hearing cases that involve a party in which they, their spouse, or their minor children have a financial interest. Federal judges are instead supposed to disqualify themselves in any proceeding in which their impartiality may be questioned. Despite this, a Wall Street Journal investigation found that between 2010 and 2018, more than 130 federal judges failed to recuse themselves in nearly 700 cases in which they or an immediate family member held stock in a company involved in the case.

While federal judges are required to submit financial disclosure reports, current law does not provide sufficient transparency or certainty for litigants to discern if the judge has a conflict of interest. The current process for obtaining judicial financial disclosure forms can be cumbersome and take months or even years. By contrast, financial disclosure reports for the President, Members of Congress, and Presidentially-appointed and Senate-confirmed officials are readily available and searchable online. 

Litigants need real-time access to judges’ financial disclosures and securities transactions in order to preserve the integrity of the proceedings and ensure a recusal when there’s a potential conflict of interest in their case. The Courthouse Ethics and Transparency Act would enact necessary updates to disclosure rules and provide litigants and the public with greater confidence in the judicial system.

Bill text can be found here. To access a downloadable version of Congresswoman Ross’s speech on the House Floor, click here.