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Financial records show justices enjoy overseas travel

By Bill Mears, CNN Supreme Court Producer
  • Supreme Court justices enjoyed international travel, according to records
  • Documents are filed annually by justices
  • Gifts, including a Kindle, among the gifts listed in records

Washington (CNN) -- Justices of the Supreme Court enjoyed a whirlwind schedule of overseas and domestic trips in the past year, newly released financial records show.

Seven of the nine members of the current court traveled outside the United States to more than a dozen European and South American nations, to teach and receive honorary awards. The information, along with their financial assets, is detailed in forms all members of the federal judiciary are required to file annually.

The busiest traveler, as he has been in recent years, was Justice Antonin Scalia, who noted 22 domestic and international trips in 2009 -- many of them to promote a book he co-authored on advising lawyers how to successfully argue their cases. Among the destinations were Poland, Brazil, Sweden, Germany, France and Denmark. An avid game hunter, Scalia also addressed the Safari Club International in Reno.

Among the other exotic locales visited by some court members:

Samuel Alito -- Mexico, Austria, and Alaska.

Stephen Breyer -- Italy and Canada.

Anthony Kennedy -- Austria for his annual month-long teaching stint in Salzburg, for which he earned more than $26,000 in supplemental income.

John Roberts -- Britain and Ireland, annual teaching stops for the chief justice.

Ruth Ginsburg -- Italy, France, and Argentina.

Sonia Sotomayor -- Puerto Rico for a series of speeches and events, traveling with her mother. The justice's parents were born on the Caribbean island.

The travel costs are reimbursed by the organizations sponsoring the trips.

The justices are also required to list the gifts they have received. Perhaps the most interesting is the Kindle Wireless Reading Device given to retired Justice David Souter, who earned a reputation over the years as being suspicious of technology gadgets.

The device sold by Amazon allows books to be downloaded and read on a portable electronic screen.

Souter, who retired to New Hampshire last year, is an avid bibliophile, and moved to a new, larger home near Concord just to accommodate his ever-expanding collection of books.

The estimated $349 gift came from his former law clerk Julius Genachowski, now chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, and his wife Rachel Goslins.

During court recesses, Souter always retreated to his family farmhouse in Weare, and was known for not having a cell phone, answering machine, or access to email, making it hard to reach him sometimes. He did have a landline phone and a television, which friends say he never bothered to plug in. His Washington apartment where he lived when the court was in session was similarly bare of many modern conveniences.

Sotomayor was the recipient of several gifts in her first year on the high court: two works of art, including a watercolor of "Three Owls"-- a famous symbol of judges. Friends also gave her two judicial robes, an expensive fountain pen, a day spa gift certificate and the services of a personal shopper. The seven items were valued at about $4,500.

Roberts reported receiving opera tickets ($500 value), Scalia got dictionaries ($950) and the retiring John Paul Stevens noted an honorary membership to the Union League Club in Chicago ($840 value).

The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts released the records, based on information supplied by the justices.

They also show several justices -- Roberts, Ginsburg, and Breyer -- with financial assets from extensive investments and trusts, worth several million dollars each.

Kennedy, Alito, Sotomayor and Clarence Thomas have relatively modest assets, each under a million dollars.

Sotomayor only listed separate Citibank savings and checking accounts as her sole financial investments.

The justices are not required to publicly reveal exact dollar amounts, only a range of value for investments and trusts. Their judicial salaries are just over $200,000.