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New financial disclosure rules take effect for Minnesota judges

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The Star Tribune reports new rules for Minnesota judges take effect in January that will require they make information about their finances widely available, including disclosures about their investments, local real estate holdings and even their involvement with horse racing.

The state already requires judges to report any non-judicial salary earnings, but Minnesota is among the few states that do not require that the reports be online, the newspaper notes.

Minnesota Supreme Court justices earn a $151,820 annual salary and a Court of Appeals judge makes $143,054. But some judges have other income. Supreme Court Justice Alan Page, a Hall-of-Fame Minnesota Viking, last year made nearly $50,000 in speaker's fees and signing sports cards at memorabilia shows, the Star Tribune reports. Not all judges make cash off the bench; one judge earned a meager $25 gift card for a speaking gig at the state bar association.

The Legislature recently strengthened the financial disclosure rules, which will apply to new and reappointed judges at all levels.

The Washington-based watchdog group The Center for Public Integrity last month released the findings of a nine-month investigation that ultimately gave a failing grade to 43 states, including Minnesota, for disclosure requirements for state high-court judges.

The Center noted that there was widespread media coverage of the investigation, with many state judges telling reporters that they did not need stricter requirements. Some newspapers editorial boards, on the other hand, called for reform.

In its report, Minnesota got 17.5 points out of 100. "Minnesota is toughening its requirements starting next year, meaning its lousy grade will undoubtedly improve," the Center noted in its detail page about the state.

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