Justices release financial disclosure forms
At least six have investments worth at least $1 million
Only Sonia Sotomayor listed any financial liabilities
Amid calls for greater openness at the Supreme Court and the federal judiciary, the nine justices released their financial disclosure reports Friday.
They did so in the old-fashioned way, in person and on paper.
The figures reaffirm the members of the nation’s highest court, despite earning a government salary, are generally well off financially, and like to travel.
The figures show at least six and as many as eight of the nine justices have investments worth at least $1 million. The reports only require they list only a range from investment income.
Only Justice Sonia Sotomayor listed any financial liabilities, mostly minor credit card debt.
But a lucrative rental property she owns, her former New York City residence, brought in between $1 million and $5 million last year, although she still carries a hefty mortgage.
Sotomayor also previously earned more than $2 million from her popular 2013 memoir, “My Beloved World.”
But in the latest financial disclosure, the Bronx native reported no “non-investment income” last year, indicating royalties from book sales did not exceed her previous advances.
Justices Antonin Scalia, $77,000, and Stephen Breyer, about $11,000, separately listed royalty income from earlier books they wrote.
And Scalia earned the annual prize for most traveled justice: 28 separate trips for speeches, lectures, and teaching, including visits to New Orleans, Montana, Italy, and Peru.
Three out-of-town appearances were before the conservative Federalist Society, which liberal groups have criticized Scalia in the past as an ideological conflict-of-interest.
But other members of the court have also participated in events sponsored by ideological non-profits.
All nine members of the court reported at least one trip overseas, including to Austria, the Czech Republic, Scandinavia, and Poland.
And seven members claimed teaching income from universities, including lectures, which generally earned them about $3,000-$20,000 for one or more days of extracurricular work.
Most such stints occur during the court’s three-month recess, scheduled this year to begin in late June, when the last of the session’s rulings will be issued.
Even retired justices have to report their income.
Sandra Day O’Connor, who stepped down from the bench in 2006, maintains a remarkable schedule.
The 84-year-old said she has 21 positions on various boards and committees, and made 32 separate trips across the country, including promotion for a new book.
For their day jobs, the eight associate justices earned a healthy pay raise to $244,400, while Chief Justice John Roberts gets a bit extra at $255,500 per year.
It was the first salary increase for members of the federal bench.
The Coalition for Court Transparency, an alliance of legal and media groups, has launched a public campaign, urging the court to post its financial reports online, for the convenience of the press and public. The President and members of Congress already do so.
“The media have the right to know about any activities public officials engage in that may influence how they conduct the people’s business,” said Mike Cavender, executive director of the Radio Television Digital News Association and Foundation. “That our nation’s top judges make it purposely harder to obtain this information – especially given the Internet– does not conform to 21st century expectations of transparency from public officials.”
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.