Less travel, a lot of royalties for judges in 2020
By Amy Howe
June 11, 2021
Fred Schilling, United States Supreme Court Collection
The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic were reflected in an unusual source: the 2020 Judges’ Financial Disclosures, which the U.S. Courts Administrative Office released (and Fix the Court posted online) Friday. Unlike in previous years, judges mostly stayed close to home, with just two judges declaring reimbursements for travel after the pandemic in mid-March.
The financial information, which is published each year at this time, is relatively opaque. For example, they only show the value of investments in a wide range, and they don’t include the value of judges’ houses. However, the disclosures have also shed light on the groups the judges reach out to, their work outside of court, and even the gifts they receive.
Eight of the judges’ nine disclosures were made public on Friday. Judge Samuel Alito’s disclosure report was not included.
Two judges – Chief Justice John Roberts and Judge Sonia Sotomayor – did not declare any travel for which they were reimbursed. Four of their colleagues traveled only before the pandemic took hold. Justice Clarence Thomas traveled to Florida to speak at the University of Florida and the Florida chapter of the Federalist Society conservative legal group. Judge Stephen Breyer traveled to New York in January 2020 as part of his jury work for the prestigious Pritzker Architecture Prize, while Judge Elena Kagan also traveled to New York in late January to speak at the state bar. Unlike his colleagues, two of the trips reported by the court’s most recent judge, Amy Coney Barrett, involved a trip to Washington, DC, while serving as a judge at the Federal Court of Appeals in Indiana: Barrett came to Washington in January to judge a moot court competition at George Washington University and returned to February to serve as judge at the company’s Shakespeare Theater mock trial of peter pan.
Judge Neil Gorsuch made two trips before the pandemic hit – first to her home state of Colorado in February for the Federalist Society, and then in mid-March to speak at Ave Maria Law School in Naples, in Florida. Gorsuch also said he was reimbursed for a 12-day stay in Williamsburg, Va., In June for the George Mason University National Security Institute. Gorsuch reported income of $ 25,000.08 as an assistant professor to George Mason.
And as part of his work as a visiting professor at George Mason’s Antonin Scalia Law School (for which he was also awarded $ 25,000.08), Judge Brett Kavanaugh said he taught a two-credit course at the Supreme Court from Aug. 8-15. He said he was reimbursed by law school for accommodation and meals at an unspecified location in Farmington, Pa., During this time. Farmington is home to luxury Némacolin seaside resort and the Historic Summit Inn, an upscale hotel on top of a mountain.
Sotomayor and Gorsuch reported healthy outside income from advances on books and royalties. Sotomayor has several books to his credit, including his 2013 memoir My beloved world and books for college students and young children, which last year earned him $ 212,181 in advances and royalties – just short of his salary of $ 265,600. Gorsuch brought in $ 623.92 in royalties from Princeton University Press, presumably from his 2009 book on Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia, as well as $ 100,000 in royalties from Penguin Random House for his recent book, A republic, if you can keep it.
Several judges reported on external income from real estate. Breyer owns a vacation home in the Caribbean (where he was stolen by a man wielding a machete in 2012) which earned him between $ 15,001 and $ 50,000 in rental income, while Sotomayor reported between $ 5,001 and $ 15,000 in rental income for his New York apartment. Roberts and Kagan had less lucrative real estate: Roberts reported income from a cottage share in County Limerick, Ireland that was $ 1,000 or less, while Kagan reported between 1,001 and $ 2,500 in income from rental property in Washington.
Beyond their teaching posts, judges have held various non-judicial posts. In addition to his role as a Pritzker juror, Breyer was also an honorary administrator of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, where his wife, Joanna, worked as a psychologist. Gorsuch (along with Justice Anthony Kennedy, who retired in 2018) served on the board of Colonial Williamsburg and as honorary chairman of the National Constitution Center. And Kavanaugh continued his commitment to youth sports, as a coach of a youth basketball team and as an advisor to a sports advisory board of the Catholic Youth Organization. .
Earlier this year, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, DR.I., and Senator Lindsey Graham, RS.C., called the judges disclose more information about gifts and outside income they receive. While 2020 has been a relatively quiet year for travel and gifts for judges, those calls are expected to continue as judges – all of whom are now fully vaccinated – return to normal activities in 2021.
This article was originally published by Howe on the Court.