On Friday, April 12, 2024, Reuters reported that Judge William Greenberg of the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims was cleared of misconduct regarding a $10,000 donation to Senator Robert Menendez’s legal defense fund by Greenberg’s wife in December 2023.

The decision was made by Chief Judge Margaret Bartley and dismissed a complaint filed in February 2024 by the judicial watchdog group Fix the Court. They had argued the donation violated judicial conduct rules since Judge Greenberg was nominated to the bench in 2012 upon the recommendation of Senator Menendez.

Senator Menendez is scheduled to face trial on federal corruption charges starting May 6, 2024 in New York. He has pleaded not guilty to accusations of accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars from businessmen in exchange for helping impede law enforcement investigations against them, as well as acting as an illegal agent of the Egyptian government.

In her March 8, 2024, ruling, Chief Judge Bartley stated an inquiry found the donation was made solely from a personal checking account controlled solely by Judge Greenberg’s wife, Betty. While she communicated her intent to donate to Senator Menendez’s legal fund beforehand, the investigation established Judge Greenberg did not participate in the contribution in any way or try to influence his wife’s decision. He also told her the donation would need to come from her own resources.

Chief Judge Bartley noted the Code of Conduct for U.S. Judges prohibits donations by judges themselves to political organizations or candidates. However, it does not ban contributions from a judge’s spouse. She also recognized judges have an ethical responsibility to dissociate themselves from a spouse’s political activities. Based on the findings of the inquiry, Chief Judge Bartley ruled Judge Greenberg “fulfilled this ethical responsibility.”

In response, Gabe Roth, the executive director of Fix the Court, acknowledged the complaint was seriously considered even if ultimately dismissed. He confirmed the inquiry found Judge Greenberg played no role in arranging the donation. However, Roth said the “clear perception issue” of a judge, who owes his position to a senator, and having that same senator receive money from his wife for his legal defense still raises concerns. Roth believes Senator Menendez should return the donation to fully address this optics problem.

 

 

Source: Reuters