YOU HAVE TO WAKE UP pretty early in the morning to get the jump on a federal judge, although Tuesday it was the federal judges who woke up late who got the jump on the early risers. At issue was the new financial disclosure law that requires federal judges to state their financial worth. Before 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, some judges, including six Supreme Court justices, got their statements in. But by the stroke of 4:30 some of their brethern had had a stroke of their own, and obtained a restraining order from a district court in New Orleans, so that the remaining judges wouldn't have to comply. Two of the remaining judges were Justice William Rehnquist and Chief Justice Warren Bruger, no less, but they eventually complied on their own kick Wednesday. Being clever is one thing, but showing bad team spirit is quite another; and the last thing the two foxier justices wished to suggest was a lack of esprit de court.

Of course, the disclosure law has been on the books since last fall. But you can't be too hasty when you're a federal judge, and besides, the judges have good reason for not wishing to disclose their holdings. Some of them think the disclosure law is unconstitutional. Others fear kidnappings. The constitutionality may be in question, but the idea of kidnapping seems out of it. We do not favor the kidnapping of judges, but why make a disclosure exception for them?

A federal judge is a handful. He is resourceful, independent; he knows the law; and he knows how to get around it. A few years ago, you'll remember, another group of judges filed a lawsuit claiming they had been denied a pay raise unconstitutionally. You couldn't have come up with a ploy like that yourself. Which is why you're not a federal judge.