Disclosure forms offer glimpse into Supreme Court's finances

Disclosure forms offer glimpse into Supreme Court's finances
© Getty Images

Disclosure forms released Thursday offer a narrow glimpse into the Supreme Court justices’ finances and income.

The financial disclosure forms for 2018, which the Supreme Court does not make publicly available online, were obtained and distributed by the group Fix the Court. While the documents show the outside positions each justice holds and how much income they earned from them, they provide few other details.

The forms indicate that Justice Neil GorsuchNeil GorsuchSupreme Court hands Virginia Democrats a win in gerrymandering case Supreme Court hands Virginia Democrats a win in gerrymandering case Supreme Court rules defendants can be tried on state and federal charges, potentially impacting Manafort MORE received a $225,000 advance from Penguin Random House, which is publishing his new book to be released in the fall.

ADVERTISEMENT

Gorsuch also reported $782.55 in other book royalties, and Justice Stephen BreyerStephen BreyerThomas urges Supreme Court to reverse 'demonstrably erroneous decisions' Thomas urges Supreme Court to reverse 'demonstrably erroneous decisions' Supreme Court hands Virginia Democrats a win in gerrymandering case MORE earned $4,415.69 in book royalties. Justice Sonia SotomayorSonia SotomayorSupreme Court hands Virginia Democrats a win in gerrymandering case Supreme Court hands Virginia Democrats a win in gerrymandering case Supreme Court rules defendants can be tried on state and federal charges, potentially impacting Manafort MORE also reported a total of $33,000 from Penguin Random House, which has published several books by her.

Many of the justices also reported income from teaching positions they have at law schools: Justice Clarence ThomasClarence ThomasThomas urges Supreme Court to reverse 'demonstrably erroneous decisions' Thomas urges Supreme Court to reverse 'demonstrably erroneous decisions' Supreme Court hands Virginia Democrats a win in gerrymandering case MORE, for example, reported income from teaching at George Washington University as well as the Universities of Kansas and Georgia. Chief Justice John Roberts, Sotomayor and Breyer did not hold teaching positions in 2018, according to the forms.

The documents also indicate that the justices were reimbursed by several organizations for traveling to different events. While the forms show the number of reimbursements and provide a brief description, they do not show how much money the justices received.

Justice Ruth Bader GinsburgRuth Bader GinsburgSupreme Court hands Virginia Democrats a win in gerrymandering case Supreme Court hands Virginia Democrats a win in gerrymandering case Supreme Court rules defendants can be tried on state and federal charges, potentially impacting Manafort MORE reported the most reimbursements, with 14 in total. Several of the trips were for films about her: The documentary “RBG” and the movie “On the Basis of Sex” were both released in 2018.

Breyer came in second with 12 reimbursements, and Justice Elena KaganElena KaganSupreme Court hands Virginia Democrats a win in gerrymandering case Supreme Court hands Virginia Democrats a win in gerrymandering case Supreme Court rules defendants can be tried on state and federal charges, potentially impacting Manafort MORE reported seven reimbursements.

Justice Samuel AlitoSamuel AlitoSupreme Court hands Virginia Democrats a win in gerrymandering case Supreme Court hands Virginia Democrats a win in gerrymandering case Supreme Court rules defendants can be tried on state and federal charges, potentially impacting Manafort MORE was reimbursed six times, including for travel to a pair of conferences in Italy and Switzerland.

Justice Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughSupreme Court hands Virginia Democrats a win in gerrymandering case Supreme Court hands Virginia Democrats a win in gerrymandering case Supreme Court rules defendants can be tried on state and federal charges, potentially impacting Manafort MORE, the newest member of the court, was sworn in in October 2018. He reported seven positions outside the court for that year, including coaching three girls basketball teams.

Fix the Court, which advocates for more transparency within the judicial system, criticized the lack of information on the forms, and for investments some of the justices hold that could present potential conflicts of interest.

The group noted in a press release that Alito has ownership in 27 companies, Breyer owned shares in eight companies and Roberts had shares in five.

That’s a total of 40 companies that the members of the Supreme Court have ownership in, down from 73 companies at the end of 2014, according to Fix the Court. Justice Antonin Scalia died in 2016, and Justice Anthony Kennedy retired last year.

“Once again, the justices took dozens of trips across the country and around the world last year in which a third party paid for their dining, airfare and accommodations, with the public left in the dark about how lavish these trips may have been,” Fix the Court’s executive director Gabe Roth said in a statement.

“Just as top officials in other branches are required to list the market value of their food, flights and hotels when they travel on someone else's dime, the justices should have a similar requirement, so that the public can better determine whether an outside source is attempting to buy influence.”

Roberts earns $267,000 as chief justice, while the other members of the court take home salaries of $255,300.