Tuesday, August 22, 2006


The judge who ruled against the government and ruled the NSA terrorist surveillance program unconstitutional may have had an undisclosed conflict of interest. Anna Diggs Taylor also serves as a trustee and officer to an organization that donated $45,000 to the Michigan chapter of the ACLU -- which happened to be one of the plaintiffs in the case (via Hot Air):

Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption and judicial abuse, announced today that Judge Anna Diggs Taylor, who last week ruled the government’s warrantless wiretapping program unconstitutional, serves as a Secretary and Trustee for a foundation that donated funds to the ACLU of Michigan, a plaintiff in the case (ACLU et. al v. National Security Agency). Judicial Watch discovered the potential conflict of interest after reviewing Judge Diggs Taylor’s financial disclosure statements.

According to her 2003 and 2004 financial disclosure statements, Judge Diggs Taylor served as Secretary and Trustee for the Community Foundation for Southeastern Michigan (CFSEM). She was reelected to this position in June 2005. The official CFSEM website states that the foundation made a “recent grant” of $45,000 over two years to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Michigan, a plaintiff in the wiretapping case. Judge Diggs Taylor sided with the ACLU of Michigan in her recent decision.

As Allahpundit notes, this does not appear to violate the legal canon of ethics, at least not explicitly, but it does seem rather too close for comfort. Many judges probably either belong to the ACLU or have given it support, but in this case it would appear unseemly for Taylor -- as an officer of an organization that is a major benefactor -- to have presided over a lawsuit the Michigan chapter brought. I doubt she will get any official sanction, but I also think it will dent her reputation than her opinion in the case has already done.

However, we should not get too triumphal about this development. The defendants of the lawsuit will almost certainly raise this question on appeal, but the real questions about the legality of the program still must find an answer. Even if the appellate court dismisses the decision on this basis, it only postpones a truly substantive review of the issue -- which Taylor didn't bother providing in the first place. The sooner that the Supreme Court reviews the issue, the better off we all will be.

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