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Justices' finances show overseas travel, book royalties, gifts

By Bill Mears, CNN Supreme Court Producer
updated 5:51 PM EDT, Wed June 20, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Justices Breyer and Scalia ran neck-and-neck in the category of most-traveled justice
  • Justices Scalia and Breyer reported income from book sales
  • Justice Sotomayor reported a gift of fine china worth $1,400
  • Justice Alito did not submit his disclosure form on time, and asked for an extension

Washington (CNN) -- From five continents to nearly three dozen states, the justices of the Supreme Court remain busy travelers, and relatively well off financially.

Eight of the nine members of the high court released their annual financial disclosure forms Wednesday, showing book income for Justices Antonin Scalia and Stephen Breyer, and some unusual gifts to Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

Sotomayor reported two gifts from friends: fine china worth $1,400 and a "translucent composite print" from artist Robert Weingarten.

"During 2011 many people sent me gifts of books, art, jewelry and trinkets," explained Sotomayor in her form. "I have no reason to believe that any of those items exceeded the $335 limit" requiring separate, itemized reporting of their value.

The justice, named to the bench in 2010, also was the only one to list a liability -- minor credit card debt.

All federal judges are required to list on annual financial disclosure forms any out-of-town travel for speeches and other appearances that was paid for by private groups.

Judges are required to release only ranges of investment income, including stocks, not the exact value.

Breyer and Scalia, as usual, ran neck-and-neck in the category of most-traveled justice, with Breyer gaining the edge with 21 out-of-town destinations on expense-paid business trips.

He went to Canada, the United Kingdom and France in addition to states such as Florida, Arkansas, and Colorado. He was among at least six justices to travel to California.

Scalia was among them, attending a seminar last year of the Federalist Society, a conservative legal group. The 76-year-old justice also jetted to seven countries, including Australia, Switzerland and Ireland.

Sotomayor visited El Salvador, while Justices Clarence Thomas and Elena Kagan went to Argentina, along with the retired Sandra Day O'Connor, for an international legal conference.

Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Anthony Kennedy conducted their separate annual summer teaching stints in Italy and Austria.

Eight justices reported teaching income from universities, including lectures, which generally earned them about $15,000 for one or more days of extracurricular work. Most such stints occur during the court's three-month recess, scheduled this year to begin late next week, when the last of the session's rulings will be issued, including the much-anticipated health care decisions.

Justice Samuel Alito did not submit his disclosure form on time, and asked for an extension into August.

Thomas noted his wife, Virginia, had 2011 non-investment income as a columnist at the Daily Caller website, and at Liberty Consulting, a conservative advocacy group founded by her. The specific amount of income did not have to be listed.

Twenty Democratic lawmakers last October formally asked the Justice Department to investigate the justice's appearances before conservative groups and his failure over the years to publicly disclose about $700,000 of his wife's income, as required under federal law. Thomas updated the income on an amended disclosure form, and said the lapse was inadvertent.

Scalia reported $18,755 in book income, including for a new legal treatise out this month called "Reading Law." Breyer's 2010 book, "Making Democracy Work: A Judge's View" earned him more than $45,000 in royalties last year.

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