U.S. Supreme Court

SCOTUS justices must list value of gifted transportation, updated rules clarify

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SCOTUS Roberts Court June 2022

The U.S. Supreme Court as composed June 30, 2022, to present. (Photo by Fred Schilling via the Supreme Court website)

U.S. Supreme Court justices and federal judges must disclose the value of travel-related gifts, according to an update to financial disclosure regulations intended to “reflect past statutory changes more clearly,” according to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.

The clarification follows controversy over Justice Clarence Thomas’ receipt of travel gifts from wealthy benefactors, report Reuters and Bloomberg Law.

On his 2022 disclosure, Thomas had listed gifted private plane travel as a reimbursement, rather than a gift that had to be disclosed.

The update says the value of travel-related gifts can’t be shielded from disclosure by classifying the trips as reimbursements, according to an email to the publications from the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.

The update clarifies that “transportation that substitutes for commercial transportation” isn’t subject to a reporting exemption for personal hospitality, Bloomberg Law explains.

The reporting exemption for hospitality covers food, lodging or entertainment that is personal in nature at a home or property of a person or the person’s family, according to the Guide to Judiciary Policy.

Steven Lubet, a emeritus professor at the Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law, told Reuters that the updated policy is “a clarification of an existing rule that should not have needed clarifying.”

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