The state political watchdog agency moved today to post financial disclosure forms submitted by California judges online.
The California Judges Association has fought for months for an exemption to a 2010 regulation requiring that the statement of economic interest forms filed by certain elected officials, including the governor, legislators and county supervisors, are posted on the Internet.
The association argued that information contained in the forms, such as property ownership or a spouse's place of work, could jeopardize the safety of their families if it was available on a smartphone or in just a few clicks online.
"We see this as an issue of life and limb," California Judges Association President David Rubin, a San Diego judge, said in an interview today. "We don't want people beaten, murdered, raped, what have you, because of an irate litigant."
Instead of carving out an exception for judges, the Fair Political Practices Commission voted today to approve a new policy that allows all filers subject to online posting to request redaction of sensitive information, such as the name of a family member or the address of their workplace.
While judges had asked the commission to allow them to submit a form that omits entirely the information they wanted redacted for online posting, FPPC Chairwoman Ann Ravel said today that the commission felt it was important to obtain and post online a form that indicates the presence of reported interests.
"The public when they're looking to see whether or not a particular individual, and a judge as well, has an economic interest in a matter that's before them has a right to know that there's an issue and that the person does have an economic interest," Ravel said.
"They may not have a right to know something that would lead to sensitive information, but the whole purpose of the law is for people to provide that information so that the public can make a decision," she added.
Rubin said that while the judges still believe the old policy of available as public records online was best, they believe many of their concerns will be addressed through the new regulation.
"I am comfortable at this stage that we are going to be able to work with the implementation of this new compromise regulation that will offer the kind of security, not as much as we wanted, but certainly more than originally (offered)," he said.
Ravel said the forms will be posted on the FPPC's website as soon as possible, though there could be some lag time for processing and addressing questions about the new redaction policy.
"It's going to take a little time, but hopefully we're going to get this up soon," she said.