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Justices release financial disclosures

Yesterday the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts released the 2017 financial disclosure reports for the justices of the Supreme Court. The reports are relatively opaque – they indicate the value of investments only in a wide range, for example – and do not include the value of the real estate in which the justices make their homes. But they nonetheless shed light on the justices’ investment holdings (including potential conflicts of interest) and travel, their work outside the court, and even the gifts that they receive.

Here are a few highlights from the reports:

  • Some justices received income from books that they have written (or plan to write). Justice Neil Gorsuch reported just over $9,000 in royalties for his book, “The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia” – not bad for an academic book, much less one published nine years ago. (Interest in the book no doubt increased after Gorsuch’s nomination and confirmation last year, as court watchers (including me) purchased the book to try to glean a hint of Gorsuch’s views on assisted suicide and, perhaps, abortion.) But Gorsuch’s income from royalties was dwarfed by that of Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who received over $110,000 that she described as “advances against royalties for two books.”
  • Justice Stephen Breyer had perhaps the most interesting side job, as a juror for the prestigious Pritzker Architecture Prize. Other justices taught law school, served on the board of trustees for Colonial Williamsburg (Justice Anthony Kennedy), and served as a governing director of iCivics (Sotomayor), the civics-education group founded by retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.
  • Breyer’s service as a juror for the Pritzker took him to Mexico City and Lima, Peru. Here too, though, Sotomayor has the advantage in the “most exotic travel” category: She went to Arusha, Tanzania, with the American Bar Association’s Rule of Law Initiative.
  • They own a lot of stocks, bonds and rental properties. In case you were wondering, Chief Justice John Roberts still owns one-eighth of a cottage in Knocklong, County Limerick, Ireland; no word on whether it’s available for vacationers on Airbnb.
  • They don’t have a lot of debt. The only justice to report a liability was Sotomayor: a mortgage (in the $250,000 to $500,000 range) on her rental property in New York, which is valued at between $1 million and $5 million.
  • Roberts was the only justice to report a gift: an inscribed football helmet, valued at $579, from federal judges in Mississippi.
  • Kennedy, who has spent 43 years as a federal judge (on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit beginning in 1975 and on the Supreme Court since 1988) seemingly has the simplest investment portfolio of any of the justices: His report indicates that he has cash in a bank account and three whole-life-insurance policies.

This post was originally published at Howe on the Court.

Recommended Citation: Amy Howe, Justices release financial disclosures, SCOTUSblog (Jun. 15, 2018, 9:44 AM),