An association that represents California judges is lobbying to keep annual financial disclosure statements filed by the judiciary off the Internet.
The state Fair Political Practices Commission, in 2010, began posting statements of economic interest for officials who file the annual disclosures with the agency, such as legislators, the governor and other constitutional officers.
The agency was set to begin posting the "Form 700" forms from judges in 2011 but postponed the implementation "in response to security-related concerns expressed by several judges and their representatives," according to a memo prepared by FPPC staff.
After months of discussions, a working group of trial judges, appellate justices and representatives of the Administrative Offices of the Courts and the California Highway Patrol proposed a process for judges to submit a second version of their form that does not include information that they feel would pose a security risk if posted online, such as disclosures that could reveal a home or work address.
The option to redact sensitive information is available to all officials under current law and, according to the FPPC memo, the case-by-case requests "to redact home addresses for private individuals including both family and friends have been granted liberally" in the past.
But the California Judges Association, which represents about 2,500 judicial officials, says it is still opposed to posting the forms, which can include addresses of properties owned by the official, a spouse's place of business and gifts the official received. They are petitioning to keep the forms offline, where they can still be requested as public records.
The debate will come to a head next week, when commissioners hold a discussion of the issue during a March 15 meeting.
CJA President David Rubin, a San Diego Superior Court judge, said the association plans to share with the commission "our concerns about the particular danger in which judges or judicial officers and their families are put in by posting their Form 700s online."
Rubin said that given judges' "unique" and public role in the criminal and civil justice systems, his members feel "very dangerous" situations could arise in which someone involved in a case could simply pull up information contained on the forms from a computer or even a smartphone in a courthouse.
FPPC Chairwoman Ann Ravel said this week that though the working group had submitted its alternative filing proposal in late January, she decided to open up a full discussion of the issue at next week's meeting after she heard that the judges' association was still concerned.