U.S. Supreme Court

Gorsuch earned $225K advance for book, Ginsburg leads in reimbursed travel, disclosures show

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Three U.S. Supreme Court justices earned money for writing books last year, including a $225,000 advance earned by Justice Neil M. Gorsuch for a book set to be released in September, according to financial disclosure forms released Thursday.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor received $33,000 in book royalties last year for her children’s books Turning Pages: My Life Story and The Beloved World of Sonia Sotomayor. Justice Stephen G. Breyer received $4,415 in book royalties.

The National Law Journal and USA Today have coverage of the disclosure forms, while BuzzFeed News reporter Zoe Tillman discusses them in a series of tweets.

Gorsuch’s upcoming book is titled A Republic, If You Can Keep It. The book focuses on “essential aspects” of the Constitution, as well as events that shaped Gorsuch’s life and outlook, according to a description by Amazon.com.

Several justices received teaching income. Top earners were Justice Clarence Thomas, who received $28,000 for teaching at three law schools; and Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, who received $27,765 for teaching at Harvard Law School.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. listed no outside income from teaching or royalties.

Three justices held individual stocks: Roberts and Breyer and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. Together, they sold up to $345,000 in stocks, possibly because of cases reaching the court. Roberts alone sold up to $250,000 in AT&T stock, with a gain of up to $100,000.

Stock holdings can lead to recusals; the court transparency group Fix the Court maintains that justices should not hold shares in a company that frequently comes before the court because recusals can lead to tie votes.

“Though they’re trending in the right direction, selling their shares bit by bit, Roberts, Breyer and Alito should more directly follow the lead of their other colleagues and refrain from owning these shares,” Fix the Court said in a press release.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was the justice most often reimbursed for travel to deliver speeches and participate in conferences. She received reimbursement for 14 trips, including several trips abroad. Not far behind were Sotomayor and Breyer, with 13 and 12 reimbursed trips, respectively.

In all, justices received reimbursements for 64 trips last year, according to the statement by Fix the Court. Justices have to list the source of payment, but they are not required to list the dollar value of the reimbursement under current requirements set by the Ethics Reform Act of 1989. Fix the Court and U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island say the disclosure requirement is inadequate.

The public is left in the dark when it’s unknown how lavish the trips might have been, according to Gabe Roth, Fix the Court’s executive director.

“Just as top officials in other branches are required to list the market value of their food, flights and hotels when they travel on someone else’s dime, the justices should have a similar requirement, so that the public can better determine whether an outside source is attempting to buy influence,” Roth said in the statement by his group.

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