'Put a ring on it'
Federal Judge Yvette Kane lists approximately $80,000 in gifts of jewelry, an automobile, interest, trips and other gifts
by Bill Keisling
Posted August 4, 2010 -- A chief federal judge in Pennsylvania received more than $80,000 in gifts from three Pennsylvania attorneys from 2003 to 2008, according to financial disclosure statements Judge Yvette Kane filed with the court.
Yvette Kane is the chief judge for the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.
In six successive Financial Disclosure Reports filed by Judge Kane from 2004 to 2009, covering the years 2003 to 2008, Kane lists approximately $80,000 in gifts of jewelry, an automobile, interest, trips and other gifts from "John R. McGinley, Jr, Esquire."
A John R. McGinley, Jr., is a member of the board of directors, and Chair of the Executive Committee, of the law firm Eckert Seamans, of Pittsburgh, according to that firm's website.
Kane was appointed to the federal bench in 1998. She became Chief Judge of the Middle District of Pennsylvania in 2006. The chief judge is charged with sweeping administrative and appointive duties.
Kane's financial disclosure statement for 2003 lists $10,000 in "Jewelry, Personal Gifts," from "John R. McGinley, Jr., Esquire."
Kane's report for 2004 lists $17,800 in "Jewelry, Personal Gifts," and "Steeler's Playoff Tickets" from McGinley.
Also in this report for 2004, Judge Kane lists a $750 gift of a "Guided Fishing Trip" from James E. Nevels.
In 2006, in addition to $3,000 in "Jewelry, Personal Gifts" from McGinley, Judge Kane listed her receipt of an additional gift of $1,200 in "Jewelry" from David W. Sweet.
Having initially listed $36,000 in gifts of "Jewelry, Personal Gifts" from McGinley in 2007, Judge Kane filed later an amended report with the federal court's Disclosure Office.
"Please accept this letter as an amendment to my Annual Report dated May 14, 2008," Judge Kane wrote. "Both amendments relate to the donor John R. McGinley. During 2007 Mr. McGinley and I exchanged many gifts. He has assisted me with a more detailed accounting of those gifts and has reminded me of two instances of travel that should be reported.
"Part IV addressing Reimbursements should be amended to add the following travel, with John R. McGinley listed as the Source:
"May 25-28 --Boston, Mass.-Attend wedding-Airline travel, Accommodations, Meals
"July 5-8--Wolfville, Nova Scotia-Vacation trip-Ferry travel, Accommodations, Meals
"Part V of my report should be amended to itemize gifts from John R. McGinley as follows:
"520 Household Items
514 Stationary cycle
800 Recreation (Golf, Fishing, Concert)
9100 Payoff of auto loan
17,500 (interest in automobile)
"The last item involving the automobile is unresolved. Mr. McGinley and I purchased a vehicle together, but as I am now enjoying exclusive use and possession of this vehicle, I am treating it as a very generous gift and have listed it in Part V," Judge Kane declares.
Telephoned at their offices, neither Judge Kane nor McGinley responded with a comment about the listed gifts, or their relationship.
We were instead referred by a secretary in Judge Kane's chambers to the federal court's Office of Financial Disclosure.
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Richard Carelli, spokeman for the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, explained that the law requires federal judges to disclose "anything of value over $335 from a non-family member."
Gifts to judges from spouses or fiancés are exempt from reports, Carelli said, but not gifts from others.
"It's pretty much summed up by that Beyoncé song, 'Put a Ring on It,'" Carelli explained.
Carelli says that the financial disclosure of federal judges was mandated by Congress in the Ethics in Government Acts of the 1970s.Judge Kane's report for 2009 has yet to be published by the court.