In a major change in policy, federal judges must now disclose detailed information about who pays for their travel and expenses while attending educational seminars. The change, announced today by the Federal Judicial Conference, follows a series of critical studies and news reports about federal judges accepting trips from corporate sponsors or interest groups. Just last year questions were raised in a Nightline report about a trip to Colorado for Associate Justice Antonin Scalia to attend a seminar sponsored by the Federalist Society. THE BLOTTER RECOMMENDS The High Flying Supremes Judges: Targets of Corporate Lobbying Nightline Report: Supreme Ethics Problem? Click Here for More of the Brian Ross Page "The Judicial Conference today made great strides toward preserving the public’s confidence in our judiciary," said Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), who has been on the forefront of congressional efforts for judicial ethics reform over the years. "I applaud their actions aimed at improving how federal judges comply with their ethical obligations." Under the new rules, federal judges would now be required to report within 30 days not only financial details but the speakers and topics presented at the conference. The new disclosure information will be made available to the public on the internet by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. "These are very significant changes," said Doug Kendall of the Counsel of the Community Rights organization, which issued several reports critical of judicial travel. "The Conference went further than I expected. It is an important step forward in providing real-time disclosure and transparency for litigants around the country." It’s not yet clear whether the rules will apply to Supreme Court Justices who in the past have said they were not bound by rules set for lower court justices. Click here to read the new rules applying to federal judges.