Two U.S. Court of Appeals judges who cast the deciding votes in a decision that the Clean Air Act does not require regulating carbon dioxide emissions had attended a global warming seminar at Yellowstone National Park sponsored by a free-market foundation and featuring presentations from companies with a clear financial interest in limiting regulation.
In his article [also here] “Junketing Judges: A Case of Bad Science,” in the June 4 Washington Post, Eric Schaeffer, director of the Environmental Integrity Project in Washington, DC and former director of EPA’s Office of Regulatory Enforcement, writes:
Last fall, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that the Clean Air Act does not require regulating carbon dioxide emissions that are heating up the planet at an unprecedented rate. It turns out that two of the jurists who helped decide the case—Chief Judge Douglas H. Ginsburg and Judge David B. Sentelle—attended a six-day global warming seminar at Yellowstone National Park sponsored by a free-market foundation and featuring presentations from companies with a clear financial interest in limiting regulation.
According to documents released by a watchdog law firm last week, Exxon Mobil Corp. and other large businesses contribute to conservative think tanks to help “educate” federal judges through seminars like the one at Yellowstone. At least one major funder of these judicial junkets has said that the D.C. Circuit is targeted because of its jurisdiction over important environmental cases….
At the conclusion of his discussion of the problem of the relationship between federal judges and organizations like the corporate-funded Foundation for Research on Economics and the Environment, Schaeffer says:
Chief Justice John G. Roberts testified during his confirmation hearing that “special interests should not be permitted to lobby federal judges,” and Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) is sponsoring legislation that would ban such trips, while creating a fund to pay for legal education for judges.
Voters can replace elected officials who seem too close to special interest groups. But judges are appointed for life, and allowing insider access threatens the integrity of the one branch of government that should stand above politics. Court cases must be won by argument, not by influence, and that means putting a stop to judicial junkets that give one side of the debate an unfair advantage.