Jed Rakoff, Judicial Rebel

If you click only two links this week, try this one and this one, each to a different, exceptionally well-framed story by Reuters' reporter @AlisonFrankel. Both are about the recent glory and tribulation of federal judicial rebel, Jed Rakoff, of the Southern District of New York.

RakoffJudge Rakoff is famous for standing up to the SEC and Citigroup, who brought a settlement to him, they thought to rubber stamp. The kind of settlement where wrongdoing is swept under the rug, the sanction is a slap on the wrist, and the smell of regulatory capture lingers in the air like burnt coffee.

Judge Rakoff said: no. The public needs a record of facts. The government needs to be accountable for what it does in the name of the people.

Though he's been overturned - you really should stop reading this post and follow those links to how this is playing out in the appeals court - Judge Rakoff is a folk hero to many, including me. We needed Judge Rakoff when Facebook settled with the FTC. We need vigorous judges to be willing to counter corporate attempts to co-opt public forums.

Thanks to an unconnected news report yesterday, by KUOW reporter John Ryan, I heard an articulation of the principle it seems to me that Judge Rakoff is serving. The KUOW piece was not about Judge Rakoff; it was about local concerns. But it quoted this passage from a Washington State statute about the public's right to public records:

"The people of this state do not yield their sovereignty to the agencies that serve them. The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know. The people insist on remaining informed so that they may maintain control over the instruments that they have created."

Give 'em hell, Judge Rakoff!


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