Albion Monitor /Features

West Publishing and the Courts

[Editor's note: Less than six months after the Minneapolis Star Tribune began this investigative series about West Publishing, the corporation announced that it was considering selling the company, and reveals that some in the judiciary are now disassociating themselves from West. See also commentary that wonders why most of the press ignored this important story. ]

U.S. justices took trips from West Publishing

Junkets for Judges Federal judges receive all-expense paid trips to the Bahamas, Hawaii, and other vacation spots from West Publishing.

Seven Supremes, Twelve Years A chronology shows that the Supreme Court has left intact five decisions favoring West, while Justices accept lavish vacations from the company.

The Star Tribune later found dozens of federal judges who filed incomplete or inaccurate reports documenting outside income, trips, club memberships and teaching fees, but the chair of the judiciary's Committee on Financial Disclosure claimed every disclosure report is reviewed.

Is it Ethical?

Is it ethical for judges to accept free trips and other gifts from a publisher? Some ethics experts don't think so. One law professor asks if the cases won by West should be reopened.

Although West Publishing and the judges broke no laws, reforms are urged in the practice of taking gifts from litigants.

Who owns the law?

© West Publishing Can a corporation actually have the copyright on every federal court decision issued since 1789?

Texas Wants its Law Back Texas fights West for copyright of state laws, but loses. A few months later, one of the judges deciding the case is awarded a cash prize from West.


Friends in High Places With generous donations to Congress and all levels of the judiciary, West fights to maintain its lead in a changing industry.

Publisher of Law For more than a hundred years, West has printed the rulings of the courts.

The Devitt Award West's cash prize to federal judges is prestigious -- and unusual


The Star Tribune accompanied the original series with an editorial questioning if judges should accept free airflights and other gifts.

West Publishing began defending itself even before the series appeared, issuing a letter citing accomplishments. Shortly thereafter, West held a news conference criticizing the newspaper. A manager at West attacked the series as tabloid journalism that wronged the company and distinguished judges, and that the Star Tribune had its own conflict of interest because it was starting an online news service. The editor of the Star Tribune responded with a statement that the newspaper stands by the series, and that their online services will not be competing with those offered by West.

Reader feedback Was the West series fair?

About this series

Reporters and staff

Reprinted with Permission

© Minneapolis Star Tribune 1995. All rights reserved.
The Star Tribune reserves all redistribution rights, and copying, transmitting or distribution of Star Tribune content for anything beyond strictly personal use is not permitted without the written consent of the Star Tribune.
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The Star Tribune is a division of Cowles Media Company of Minneapolis.

Albion Monitor September 18, 1995 (

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