Amy Coney Barrett received book payment of $425,000, records show

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Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett was paid $425,000 last year in a book deal, according to financial disclosure reports released on Thursday showing that judges have been paid thousands of dollars to teach at law schools and for travel costs to conferences as far away as Iceland.

Payment for Barrett’s book — more than double the salary the University of Notre Dame paid him as a law professor before becoming a judge in 2017 — came from the Javelin Group, a literary agency that represents writers in their dealings with publishers. Barrett’s disclosure form does not name his publisher, but the Associated Press reported last year she signed a deal with a conservative imprint of Penguin Random House.

Politics, citing unidentified industry sources, reported last year that she would be paid a total of $2 million for the book. Such advance payments for a book are usually paid in installments over several years.

Judges Sonia Sotomayor and Neil M. Gorsuch also earned additional income for writing books. Sotomayor reported about $115,000 in Penguin Random House royalty payments in 2021, in addition to more than $3.3 million she had previously reported in book payments since 2010.

Gorsuch reported a $250,000 payment from HarperCollins as part of a deal to write a book about his views on the legal and regulatory process, according to a company spokesperson. This agreement has not been previously reported. Gorsuch previously disclosed payments totaling more than $650,000 from Penguin Random House, the publisher of his 2019 book “A Republic, If You Can Keep It.”

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Since January, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. won an annual salary of $286,700, while associate judges each earned $274,200.

Federal rules of ethics limit judges to an “earned outside income” of no more than about $30,000 per year, which many earn through teaching positions. But payments for writing books don’t count as “outside revenue,” allowing judges to strike lucrative contracts with publishers.

The revelations come at a tense time for the court after a majority opinion draft, authored by Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr., leaked that would overturn the long-standing constitutional right to obtain an abortion. The judges prepare to make their final decision, which could turn history upside down Roe vs. Wade decision by the end of the month or the beginning of July. Alito did not provide a disclosure report Thursday and requested an extension, court officials said.

Ethics experts see Ginni Thomas texts as a problem for the Supreme Court

Over the past year, several justices have publicly defended the tribunal’s independence in the face of criticism that the nine justices are just politicians in robes. There was renewed attention this spring on the court’s legal ethics and potential conflicts of interest after revelations about the political activism of Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, the wife of Justice Clarence Thomas. Text messages jointly obtained by The Washington Post and CBS News showed how she had pressed President Donald Trump’s chief of staff to cancel the 2020 election at a time when Trump allies were trying to challenge the results in the Supreme Court. She also sent emails urging Arizona lawmakers to overturn Joe Biden’s popular vote victory and “choose” their own presidential voters.

Supreme Court justices are required to disclose only the source of their spouse’s income, not the amount of their compensation. Clarence Thomas’ 2021 disclosure form only shows that his wife received salary and benefits from his company Liberty Consulting Inc. The company was valued at less than $15,000, according to the new disclosure report, compared to between $15,001 $ and $50,000 in 2020.

On Barrett’s disclosure form, the name of her husband’s employer is redacted. Jesse M. Barrett, attorney, is listed as a partner on the website of the Indiana law firm where he has worked for the past few years.

Judges traveled less frequently than in years before the coronavirus pandemic, but still took trips to deliver speeches and lecture at law schools. Gorsuch and Judge Elena Kagan taught in Iceland last July at George Mason University’s National Security Institute, which covered their flights, accommodation and meals. Kagan was in residence for six days and Gorsuch for two weeks, records show.

Thomas and Barrett taught at Notre Dame last year and were reimbursed for travel and accommodation. Barrett’s travel expenses were also covered for his September lecture at the University of Louisville’s McConnell Center, named after Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) who helped push for Barrett’s speedy confirmation. after the death of Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg. McConnell introduced Barrett, who said the purpose of his speech was to convince the audience that “this court is not made up of a bunch of partisan hacks.”

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Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh reported no travel reimbursements in 2021, but continued to teach at Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University, which paid him $25,500.

In addition to income, judges must also report gifts they or their spouses receive. Gorsuch said he received a pair of cowboy boots — worth $699.99 — as part of an event hosted by the Texas Supreme Court Historical Society.

Senior officials are required to complete annual financial disclosure forms under a 1978 ethics law. Judges, like other federal judges, report income from investments and other sources, financial liabilities and reimbursement of outside groups for travel and entertainment costs.

But Supreme Court reports are not published online and contain limited information. Legislation passed by a House committee in May would require judges to provide more detailed descriptions of reimbursements, such as the cost of flights, hotel rooms and meals. The measure would also require the disqualification of cases in which a party has provided gifts, travel or other income to a judge or family member within the past six years.

The senses. Lindsey O. Graham (RS.C.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (DR.I.) urged court leaders to bring judges into line with executive branch and congressional officials who are required to quickly issue online disclosure reports.

“The judges of our highest court are held to the lowest standards of transparency of any senior federal government official,” they wrote in a letter last year to the chief judge.

Roberts publicly questioned whether the justices should report the information, noting in a 2011 report that the court “never asked whether Congress could impose these requirements on the Supreme Court.”

At least two of the judges, Roberts and Stephen G. Breyer, own individual shares, records show. Earlier reports show Alito also held shares in about two dozen companies.

In response to concerns about conflicts of interest and recusals, President Biden signed legislation in May that will require judges and other federal judges to disclose stock market transactions over $1,000 within 45 days and posting judges’ financial disclosure reports online.

Alice Crites contributed to this report.


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Elaine R. Knight