Investigation into Trump's sister ends with her retirement

Investigation into Trump
# 12 April 2019 08:15 (UTC +04:00)

President Donald Trump's older sister, federal appellate Judge Maryanne Trump Barry, has retired -- ending a judicial investigation into whether she broke judicial conduct rules by committing tax fraud, according to a still-unreleased court filing, ONA reports citing CNN.

The New York Times first reported Barry's retirement, saying Barry filed her retirement papers in February, just 10 days after court officials notified complainants that the matter was "receiving the full attention" of a judicial conduct council.

But because Barry retired, the investigation automatically closed.

"In concluding these proceedings, the Judicial Council does not reach the merits of complaints," the judicial council of the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals wrote of Barry's case in an April 1 document obtained by CNN.

The document refers to Barry as an "inactive senior judge."

The court's investigation was prompted by a Times report last fall alleging that the Trump family had participated in tax schemes to maximize Trump, Barry and their siblings' inheritances.

Trump's lawyer Charles Harder said the original Times story was false. "There was no fraud or tax evasion by anyone. The facts upon which the Times bases its false allegations are extremely inaccurate," he said in a statement last fall.

President Ronald Reagan selected Barry, a former prosecutor, to serve on the Federal District Court in New Jersey in 1983. President Bill Clinton nominated her to the 3rd US Circuit Court of Appeals in 1999.

While Barry, an inactive judge for over two years, previously risked rebuke, punishment or even impeachment from the judicial council review's investigation, she is now entitled to an annual retirement salary that could range upward of $200,000, according to the Administrative Office of the US Courts.

"If a judge retires from the office, they receive the same salary they were receiving at the time as an annuity," said spokesman David Sellers.

A lawyer named Scott Shuchart told CNN that last fall's Times report on the Trump family inspired him to file a "very bare bones" complaint against Barry.
"There's a little irony here," Shuchart said of the complaint's outcome. "It is kind of galling that they continue to draw a pension."

Barry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Retirements end investigations

Once a judge steps down -- or, as in the case of Brett Kavanaugh, elevated to the Supreme Court -- judicial authorities maintain they lack the jurisdiction to continue their investigations, a practice that has been criticized as serving to protect judges accused of misconduct.

In its filing, the 2nd Circuit council emphasized that the judicial conduct rules apply to "individuals who currently exercise the powers of the office of federal judge" to remedy "conditions that interfere with the effective and expeditious administration of the business of the court."

"Because the now former judge fully resigned the office of United States circuit judge, and can no longer perform any judicial duties, the former judge does not fall within the scope of persons who can be investigated," the council concluded.

How the federal judiciary polices itself has come under scrutiny in recent years following various allegations of sexual misconduct against judges, particularly when several women publicly accused former 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals Chief Judge Alex Kozinski of sexual harassment. Kozinski denied any wrongdoing and left the bench, ending an investigation there. In that situation a year earlier, US District Court Judge Walter Smith, of Texas, retired while a complaint of sexual misconduct was pending.

The system is also not transparent. A CNN review last year found that while 1,000 orders related to misconduct are posted annually on federal court websites, they contain scant details and are not categorized in a way that would separate frivolous cases from those with merit.

Judicial leaders have been gathering recommendations for possible reform by the policy-making US Judicial Conference, led by Chief Justice John Roberts.