UPDATED: Zloch's "Financial Disclosure," More on Ave Maria Connection

UPDATED: Federal Judge William Zloch has been trying to hide his finances and the finances of other judges for several years, but attorney Loring Spolter's allegation that he leaves the forms blank appear to be false.  

It's not blank, but the question is whether it's complete.

To see an example of what Zloch files, check out this PDF of the judge's 2008 form (which was initially posted by Jeffrey Kuntz at the Florida Legal Blog). You will find that it is nearly blank but for one two-inch line in black marker under spouse's income (and mention of a rented farm in Illinois).

The kicker: Zloch redacts his own signature, assuming he actually signed it, at the bottom of the form.

(Commenters, who I trust are correct, say that the U.S. Marshal's Service does these redactions. A redaction of the signature seems slightly over the top, no?)

Let's make this clear: The disclosure could be complete. But if it is, that means Judge Zloch has no investments, other than a farm, that is bringing in any income. No stocks, no retirement account, no mutual funds, no nothing. No loans, no liabilities. Again, this could be the case, but it's certainly unusual for a man of Zloch's means.

Say this: Zloch is a man of convictions, and one of them is that his finances shouldn't be known by the public. The truth is that Zloch, who served as chair of the Federal Judiciary's Committee on Financial Disclosure, has been on a crusade to hide his

finances and the finances of his colleagues for many years, citing... wait for it... safety concerns. Yes, safety concerns. As if the public knowing what gifts and outside income came a judge's way would provoke physical harm. (Don't laugh; we haven't had a full-fledged Pulp mob yet, but it could happen.)

Of course, the actual concern cited is that info provided in disclosure forms could assist someone who wanted to harm the judge. Those concerns seem overblown considering the type of information that goes on the forms, however. 

ADDED: And if Zloch is so concerned about his safety, why hasn't he filed for a confidentiality exemption with the Broward County Property Appraiser's Office to have his address stricken from the record? It's there for all to see (and someone posted it below), despite the fact that as a judge he has the right to have it removed from public view.   

Back in 1999, Zloch blocked the posting of federal judges' financial disclosures on the internet. As USC Annenberg's Online Journalism Review noted, "Zloch's decision, and the committee deliberations, seem in part to be based on terror of the Internet."

Note to Judge Zloch: All that fear you exhibit only means the terrorists have already won.

Let me make this clear: I am not trying to make it seem that Zloch is unfit for a judgeship, far from it. As many of you have said, he seems to be an honorable man. But looking at it as a journalist, this kind of lack of transparency from public officials -- yes, even from grand poobah of federal judges -- raises red flags for me.

However, the disclosure is not blank as remarked by attorney Spolter, whom Zloch hit with severe sanctions for making numerous allegations against him, some of which weren't well-founded. Spolter told me last night that he is appealing Zloch's order and is asking for a stay.  

At least one vein of Spolter's investigation, though, seems to have some resonance, at least from a political and social context. It concerns the ultraconservative Ave Maria University in Naples, from which Zloch has recruited many of his law clerks. I am putting that together now and will post in the early afternoon.

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Journalist Bob Norman has been raking the muck of South Florida for the past 25 years. His work has led to criminal cases against corrupt politicians, the ouster of bad judges from the bench, and has garnered dozens of state, regional, and national awards.
Contact: Bob Norman