FAQs: Privately Funded Seminars Disclosure
What is the effective date of the disclosure policy?
The disclosure policy took effect on January 1, 2007. This means that any organization covered by the policy that issued an invitation on or after January 1, 2007, to a federal judge to attend as a speaker, panelist, or attendee an educational program, that is significantly for the purpose of educating federal and state judges, and offers to pay for or reimburse that judge, in excess of $480, must disclose financial and programmatic information on this website.
Who must report?
The following organizations are generally covered by the disclosure policy:
- National bar associations, except for subject matter bar associations1 and the American Bar Association's Judicial Division;
- Private and public educational institutions;
- Think tanks; and
- Associations of lawyers whose members comprise or frequently represent the same side in litigation.
Are any organizations exempt from the private seminars disclosure policy?
The Judicial Conference has determined to exempt the following organizations from the disclosure policy:
- State and local bar associations;
- National, state, and local subject-matter bar associations (as discussed in footnote one);
- Judicial associations;
- The National Judicial College; and
- The Judicial Division of the American Bar Association.
Must nonexempt organizations always disclose financial and programmatic information?
No, nonexempt organizations are required to disclose financial and programmatic information only if the following criteria are met:
- The organization offers to pay for or reimburse a federal judge, in excess of $4802, for the expense of travel, food, lodging, or anything that would be considered to be a gift under the Judicial Conference Ethics Reform Act Gift Regulations for attending an educational program as a speaker or participant; and
- A significant purpose of the educational program is the education of federal or state judges.
What is reportable?
Under the policy, educational program providers are required to disclose the following information:
- The name of the program's sponsors;
- The name or title of the program;
- The dates and location of the program;
- The various presentation topics and the speakers expected respectively to address each topic; and
- All the program provider's sources of support, financial or otherwise.
Define "subject-matter bar association."
For purposes of this policy, the phrase subject-matter bar association refers to an association of lawyers who practice in a specific area of the law, such as administrative, admiralty, antitrust, elder, immigration, or patent law. Associations of lawyers whose members comprise or frequently represent the same side in litigation are not considered to be subject matter bar associations for purposes of this policy.
Define "a significant purpose of which is the education of United States federal or state judges."
The term "significant purpose" was a deliberate choice of words. The policy approved by the Judicial Conference contemplated that the education of judges could be less than the main or dominant (or even primary) purpose, but nonetheless important and not de minimis. The following examples are intended to illustrate the application of the "significant purpose" benchmark:
Illustration 1: A law school is sponsoring a CLE program on intellectual property for lawyers, and it intends to invite a judge (who would be reimbursed for the expenses of travel) to participate in the program as a speaker. The law school does not intend to invite or reimburse other judges for the expenses of their attendance as speakers, panelists, or students.
The policy applies to "a program, a significant purpose of which is the education of United States federal or state judges." Based upon the facts of this situation, it would appear that the education of federal and state judges is not a significant purpose of this program.
Illustration 2: A law school is sponsoring a seminar captioned, "Judging Economic and Financial Crimes." The program faculty consists of law professors and federal judges (who will be reimbursed for the expenses of their attendance from a law school foundation). The program is marketed to federal and state judges, as well judges from other common law countries (some of whom will be reimbursed for the expenses of their attendance).
As discussed above, the policy applies to "a program, a significant purpose of which is the education of United States federal or state judges." Based upon the facts of this situation, it would appear that a significant purpose is the education of federal or state judges.
Illustration 3: A 501(c)(3) organization is sponsoring an educational program for hundreds of practicing bankruptcy practitioners, accountants, lenders, and other bankruptcy professionals. Among other things, the program will cover the current state of bankruptcy law, how to present a case, and ethics. The program is marketed to the public generally. Although judges are invited to speak and to present papers, the involvement of judges is for the purpose of informing the non-judge registrants, not to educate judges. The topics, speakers, and other details of the program are selected by the program provider to address topics of interest to professionals and to the public, not to address issues of interest to judges. No consideration is given by the organization to promote judicial education. The organization intends to invite 10 federal judges to serve on the faculty for the program, and those judges will be reimbursed for their travel expenses. Other judges are eligible to attend the program; however, they must pay for their travel expenses out-of-pocket. Judges generally account for a minor fraction of the attendees.
Once again, the policy applies to "a program, a significant purpose of which is the education of United States federal or state judges." Under the facts set forth above, it does not appear that the program has, as a significant purpose, the education of judges. Therefore, the program would not appear to be covered by the policy.
Define "program provider's source(s) of support, financial or otherwise."
Under the Judicial Conference policy, if the support, financial or otherwise, comes from the general revenues of the program provider(s), and/or from endowments or gifts not raised for the particular educational program or for the purpose of educating judges, then it is sufficient to identify the program provider(s) as the source of support.
If the support, financial or otherwise, comes in whole or in part from money, goods, or services from others (e.g., corporations, nonprofit organizations, foundations, individual donors) specifically for the particular educational program, or for the education of judges generally, list every such donor. This policy is not intended to require the disclosure and reporting of monies derived from tuition, educational program registration fees, and other similar enrollment fees.
Define "attending, as a speaker or participant."
The policy, by its terms, applies to a judge who attends an educational program as a speaker, panelist, student, or member of the audience.
Our educational program will be conducted by more than one institution. Is each institution required to file a separate disclosure report?
No, only the primary institution should file a disclosure report. In its report, the primary institution should account for any financial and/or in-kind support provided by associated institutions.
My organization's funding comes from individual donors and public and private foundations. We use that funding to pay for the judges' lodging and transportation. We also have a partnership with a local university that provides (at no cost to us) meals for attendees and faculty for our programs. What are we required to disclose under the policy?
If your financial and other support is for specific programs, then you must identify every donor, including the university; however, you do not need to account for the free services of faculty (or any other lecturers). If your financial and other support comes from your general revenues, then it would be sufficient to identify the name of your organization and the university.
If my organization plans to conduct multiple educational programs for judges in a calendar year, do we have to file a separate disclosure report for each program?
Yes, financial and programmatic information for each educational program should be reported separately.
We are a local affiliate of a national association of lawyers whose members comprise or frequently represent the same side in litigation. We regularly invite judges (both federal and state) to speak at or participate in educational programs that are conducted during our annual meeting. The annual meeting is funded in part by registration fees and private sponsors, who provide support financially or in kind for specific events. What exactly must we report?
Assuming a significant purpose of the educational programs is the education of federal or state judges and your association offers to pay for or reimburse individual judge-invitees in excess of $480, then you would be required to disclose the names of sponsors (e.g., law firms, corporations, individuals, etc.) that donated money, goods, or services specifically for the meeting. It is not necessary for your association to report the actual amount of money donated, nor must you assign a monetary value to the goods or services donated. Also, your association would not be required to disclose and report monies raised from registration fees.
My organization is cosponsoring a Federal Judicial Center (FJC) seminar. The FJC will reimburse judges for costs of attendance (i.e., the judges' transportation, lodging, and subsistence). My organization will provide the seminar books and other background materials for the program. Are we required to file a disclosure report?
No, because it does not appear that your organization intends to pay for or reimburse judges' expenses (i.e., travel, food, lodging, or anything that would be considered a gift under the Judicial Conference Ethics Reform Act Gift Regulations) above the $480 threshold. While the seminar books and materials may be of value, they are specifically exempted from the disclosure reporting requirement.
My organization intends to reimburse state and federal judges for speaking at a rule-of-law program for judges and attorneys from Asia. Are we required to file a disclosure report?
No. In this context, it does not appear that a significant purpose of your rule-of-law program is the education of federal or state judges.
Is my organization required to disclose the names of the individual judges who attended our educational program?
No. Under the policy, judges must personally report within 30 days of the conclusion of the program the dates of their attendance, the name of the program provider, and the title of the program.
How long will my organization's disclosure report be posted on www.uscourts.gov?
Your report will be posted for a period of three years from the date of filing.
- For purposes of this policy, the phrase "subject-matter bar association" refers to an association of lawyers who practice in a specific area of the law, such as administrative, admiralty, antitrust, elder, immigration, or patent law. Associations of lawyers whose members comprise or frequently represent the same side in litigation are not considered to be subject-matter bar associations for purposes of this policy.
- This $480 figure is subject to change every three years in accordance with the cost of living as determined by the Administrator of General Services. See 5 U.S.C. § 7342(a)(5); 5 U.S.C. § 13104. (This figure was last adjusted on Mar. 10, 2023 (retroactive to Jan. 1, 2023).) Seminar books and materials are not included in this figure.