Justices earned extra money from books and teaching in 2021, disclosures show

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SCOTUS News
official portrait of nine justices wearing black judicial robes. five justices sit in chairs while four justices stand behind them.

The nine justices. (Fred Schilling, Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States)

Justice Amy Coney Barrett received $425,000 last year as part of a book deal reportedly worth $2 million, while Justice Neil Gorsuch received just over $250,000 in book royalties. The news came in financial disclosures released on Thursday by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, the administrative agency of the federal judiciary.

The justices are required to file the financial disclosures every year by May 15, although Justice Samuel Alito’s disclosure was not included in the reports released on Thursday afternoon. The disclosures are relatively opaque, and they are not intended to provide a snapshot of the justices’ wealth. Instead, they are primarily intended to provide information about potential conflicts of interest and their compliance with ethical standards.

Court-reform groups – most notably, the group Fix the Court – have complained that the delay in releasing the information contained in the disclosures makes it difficult to promptly identify potential conflicts and ethics violations. President Joe Biden recently signed legislation that will require the Supreme Court to post the justices’ disclosures online, as well as require the justices themselves to report large stock transactions within 45 days.

Barrett’s book deal was first reported by Politico in April 2021, less than a year after she was confirmed to succeed the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Barrett indicated that she had received $425,000 from Javelin Group, a Virginia-based literary agency founded by Keith Urbahn, a former chief of staff to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and Matt Latimer, a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush.

Gorsuch has written two books: The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia, published in 2009 by Princeton University Press, and A Republic, If You Can Keep It, a 2020 book published by Penguin Random House. Gorsuch received just over $300 in royalties from Princeton, but virtually all Gorsuch’s book royalties came from HarperCollins, apparently – according to Politico – for a new book on judicial and regulatory policy.

Book sales were also good for Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who received $115,000 in royalties for her children’s books Turning Pages and Just Ask! Sotomayor’s disclosure revealed that she also received $5,000 as an “option fee” for a possible TV or video program based on Just Ask!

Justice Stephen Breyer, who announced in January that he will retire this summer, also reported book royalties, albeit substantially smaller ones. Breyer’s latest book, The Authority of the Court and the Peril of Politics, was released in September 2021.

Several justices took their talents to the classroom in 2021. Gorsuch served as an adjunct professor at George Mason University, receiving $26,541.74 for his efforts. Justice Brett Kavanaugh was a visiting professor of law at George Mason’s Antonin Scalia Law School, for which he was paid $25,541.66. Justice Clarence Thomas held two teaching jobs: one at George Washington University Law School, for which he received $10,000; and one at Notre Dame, for which he received $19,595. Barrett, who spent 15 years at Notre Dame as a law professor, continues to serve as an adjunct professor there, garnering $14,280.

Despite the pandemic, the justices also hit the road occasionally in 2021. Gorsuch spent two weeks in Iceland for George Mason’s National Security Institute in July, while Justice Elena Kagan spent six days that month in Iceland with the same group.

Barrett traveled to Louisville, Kentucky, to speak at the McConnell Center, an institute created at the University of Louisville by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. In her Sept. 12 speech to celebrate the center’s 30th anniversary, Barrett told the audience that her goal was “to convince you that this court is not comprised of a bunch of partisan hacks,” and she blamed the media for making the court’s rulings “seem results-oriented.”

Chief Justice John Roberts kept a low profile in 2021, reporting no outside incomes or travel reimbursements. Roberts does continue to own part of a cottage in County Limerick, Ireland, near his mother-in-law’s hometown, as well as a cottage in Knox County, Maine.

Gorsuch, who hails from Colorado, was the only one of the eight justices to report receiving gifts during 2021: $699.99 from Allen’s Boots, a Texas cowboy boot store, in connection with a dinner for the Texas Supreme Court Historical Society.

This article was originally published at Howe on the Court.



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