A federal judge has dismissed a complaint against another judge who serves on the board of a libertarian group that opposes some environmental rules and provides free seminars to judges.
James B. Loken, chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit, ruled May 23 that the complaint against Danny J. Boggs, chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, lacked merit. Loken concluded that membership on the board of the nonprofit Foundation for Research on Economics and the Environment (FREE), based in Montana, did not compromise Boggs's neutrality or create an appearance of partiality.
He also complained in his ruling that the organization bringing the ethics charges, the Community Rights Counsel, was tarnishing the reputations of judges.
Boggs is one of four judges who served on FREE's board when the Community Rights Counsel filed a complaint last year, and he is the only one who remains on it. The three who resigned in May are Douglas H. Ginsburg, chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit; Jane R. Roth, judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit; and U.S. District Judge Andre Maurice Davis of Baltimore.
Davis and Roth did not explain their resignations. Ginsburg told FREE he was resigning because his position made it impossible to respond to attacks in the media.
The Community Rights Counsel, a nonprofit law firm here, argues that judges should distance themselves from FREE because it accepts contributions from corporations, including chemical and petroleum companies, that have fought environmental rules and fines in federal court. The foundation has drawn criticism from public interest groups for sponsoring all-expense-paid education trips for judges.
FREE Executive Vice President Pete Geddes said in an e-mail that Loken's ruling validates his group's long-standing assertion that it provides educational seminars at which various points of view are presented.
Douglas T. Kendall, executive director of the Community Rights Counsel, who filed the ethics complaints, said Loken's ruling is indicative of judges' reluctance to find fault with their colleagues. His organization has asked Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. Breyer to review of Loken's definition of an ethical conflict for a judge.