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WV receives 'F' for financial disclosure in study

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A new study showed West Virginia received a failing grade for the state's financial disclosure for judges.

The Center for Public Integrity evaluated disclosure rules for judges in the highest state courts. The levels the individual states received including 43 who received failing grades.

The high levels of disclosure make it difficult for the public to identify potential conflicts of interest on the bench. Despite the lack of information in public records, the investigation found nearly three dozen conflicts including questionable gifts and entanglements among many of the country's top judges.

West Virginia files two separate financial disclosure forms, one with the Ethics Commission and the other with the state Supreme Court. The Mountain State scored most of its points in the outside incoming — accountability and accessibility.

Earning a perfect score in the accountability section because a judge can face misdemeanor charges for knowingly filing false reports, the state also earned 7.5 out of 10 points for making half of its reports available online.

The state earned 15 of 20 points in the outside income category since judges must report the source of any income they or spouses receive.

However, and on the other end of the spectrum, West Virginia asks little a bout investments when it comes to high court judges. They aren't required to disclose their income, transactions or the value associated with each investment they make. They are only required to call the purchase something.

According to the study, the state does restrict public officials from accepting gifts worth more than $25 from lobbyists or parties. However, it is nearly impossible for judges to anticipate who might appear before them in court.