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

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Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett received $425,000 last year as part of a book deal, according to financial-disclosure reports released Thursday showing the justices were paid thousands of dollars to teach at law schools and for travel expenses for lectures as far away as Iceland.

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

Politico, 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 typically are paid in installments across multiple years.

Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Neil M. Gorsuch also earned additional income for book-writing. Sotomayor reported about $115,000 in royalty payments from Penguin Random House in 2021, on top of more than $3.3 million she 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 judicial and regulatory process, according to a spokesperson for the company. That deal 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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As of January, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. earned an annual salary of $286,700, while associate justices each earned $274,200.

Federal ethics rules limit justices to “outside earned income” of no more than about $30,000 per year, which many collect through teaching positions. But book-writing payments do not count as “outside earned income,” allowing justices to strike lucrative contracts with publishers.

The disclosures come at a tense moment for the court after the leak of a draft majority opinion, written by Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., that would overturn the long-standing constitutional right to obtain an abortion. The justices are preparing to release their final ruling, which could reverse the landmark Roe v. Wade decision by the end of the month or early July. Alito did not provide a disclosure report Thursday and requested an extension, court officials said.

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

In the last year, several justices have publicly defended the court’s independence in the face of criticism that the nine justices are merely politicians in robes. There was renewed attention this spring to 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 obtained jointly by The Washington Post and CBS News showed how she pressed the chief of staff to President Donald Trump to overturn the 2020 election at a time when Trump’s allies were trying to challenge the results at the Supreme Court. She also sent emails urging lawmakers in Arizona to set aside Joe Biden’s popular-vote victory and “choose” their own presidential electors.

Supreme Court justices are required to disclose only the source of their spouse’s income, not how much they are paid. Clarence Thomas’s 2021 disclosure form shows only that his wife drew salary and benefits from her firm Liberty Consulting Inc. The firm was valued at less than $15,000, according to the new disclosure report, down from 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, an attorney, is listed as a partner on the website of the Indiana law firm where he has worked in recent years.

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

Both Thomas and Barrett taught at Notre Dame last year and were reimbursed for travel and lodging. Barrett’s travel expenses also were covered for her September lecture at the McConnell Center at the University of Louisville, named for Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) who was instrumental in pressing for Barrett’s quick confirmation after the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. McConnell introduced Barrett, who said the goal of her talk was to convince the audience that “this court is not comprised of a bunch of partisan hacks.”

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Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh did not report reimbursements for any travel in 2021 but continued to teach at George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School, which paid him $25,500.

In addition to income, justices also must report gifts they or their spouses receive. Gorsuch reported receiving a pair of cowboy boots — valued at $699.99 — in connection with an event organized by the Texas Supreme Court Historical Society.

High-level government officials are required to complete annual financial disclosure forms under a 1978 ethics law. Justices, like other federal judges, report income from investments and other sources, financial liabilities, and reimbursement from outside groups for travel-related expenses and entertainment.

But the Supreme Court reports are not posted online and include limited information. Legislation passed by a House committee in May would require justices to provide more detailed descriptions of reimbursements, such as the cost of flights, hotel rooms and meals. The measure also would require recusal from cases in which a party has given gifts, travel or other income to a justice or family member in the last six years.

Sens. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) pressed court leaders about their plans to bring the justices in line with executive branch and congressional officials who are required to promptly publish disclosure reports online.

“The Justices of our highest court are subject to the lowest standards of transparency of any senior officials across the federal government,” they wrote in a letter last year to the chief justice.

Roberts has publicly questioned whether the justices must report the information at all, noting in a 2011 report that the court has “never addressed whether Congress may impose those requirements on the Supreme Court.”

At least two of the justices, Roberts and Stephen G. Breyer, own individual stocks, according to the records. Past 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 justices and other federal judges to disclose stock transactions of more than $1,000 within 45 days and to post the justices’ financial disclosure reports online.

Alice Crites contributed to this report.

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