Judge Who Struck Down Roadless Rule May Have Ethics Conflict

The federal judge who struck down the Clinton-era roadless rule last month may have violated ethics laws, according to two legal watchdog groups that filed a formal ethics complaint yesterday. The groups say the judge should have recused himself from hearing the case because he potentially stood to profit from its outcome. The roadless rule had blocked oil and gas development as well as logging and road-building on 58 million acres of national forest land. Judge Clarence Brimmer, according to his federal disclosure forms for 2000 and 2001, held stock or royalty interests in 15 oil and gas companies, worth an estimated $400,000 to $1.1 million. “I don’t think a judge who has half of his wealth tied up in oil and gas exploration should be sitting in cases that could substantially affect the value of the exploration that his companies want to undertake,” said Stephen Gillers, a professor of legal ethics at New York University. Brimmer denied any conflict of interest.