Two dozen times in recent years, federal appeals judges owned stock in a company with a case before them, and two other times, judges had financial ties with law firms working on cases over which they presided, reports The Center for Public Integrity in an examination of financial disclosure reports by all but three of the 258 U.S. circuit judges. Judge Jay Bybee of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals got $78,000 worth of legal services from Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP to defend him for actions in his prior job where he signed the “torture memos” on “waterboarding” for the Bush administration's Justice Department. Despite the help, he did not step aside in a 2010 case of a Guatemalan woman who sought asylum under the Convention Against Torture even though she was represented by a lawyer from the firm. A panel including Bybee affirmed the Justice Department's denial of asylum, thus ruling against the firm that helped him. He acknowledged his failure to recuse himself after the center brought it to the court's attention.
The center found five cases in which Judge Helene White of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had ruled on cases involving her financial interests, ruling in favor of her interests in two of them. She admitted to failing to recuse herself in all five of the cases, and said she didn’t realize she owned up to $50,000 in Priceline.com stock when she sat on a three-judge panel in 2012 that affirmed a judgment in favor of the company. “I'm not sympathetic to their forgetting to check,” said Tom Fitton, president of the conservative-leaning Judicial Watch, an organization that promotes transparency in government. “It's not that hard to do.”