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Supreme Court justices, minus Thomas, and Alito, file financial disclosure reports

Of the nine justices of the U.S. Supreme Court, only Justice Clarence Thomas (seated second from left) and Justice Samuel Alito (seated fourth from left) did not file their financial disclosures. They asked for — and were granted — extensions.
Olivier Douliery
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Of the nine justices of the U.S. Supreme Court, only Justice Clarence Thomas (seated second from left) and Justice Samuel Alito (seated fourth from left) did not file their financial disclosures. They asked for — and were granted — extensions.

The justices of the U.S. Supreme Court released their financial disclosure reports for 2022 under the Ethics in Government Act on Wednesday, but Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito asked for — and were granted — extensions. The other seven justices managed to make the deadline.

Thomas's disclosure form had been eagerly awaited in the wake of news reports that documented previously undisclosed luxury travel worth hundreds of thousands of dollars paid for by Republican megadonor Harlan Crow, as well as other gifts and real estate deals with Crow.

But none of that was forthcoming on Wednesday, nor was any financial information from Justice Alito, who in previous years was the only justice to own lots of different stocks, as opposed to professionally managed mutual funds.

As for the seven justices who did make the deadline, all took advantage of ways that are permissible to add outside earning to their income under the Ethics in Government Act. But only one, Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, who joined the court last June, reported receiving any gifts: A $1,200 congratulatory flower arrangement from Oprah Winfrey, likely after Jackson's confirmation, and a $6,580 designer outfit she wore for a Vogue magazine photo shoot.

In 2022, the justices earned $274,000 a year, with the exception of the chief justice, who earned $286,000. But they are permitted to earn up to $30,000 for teaching. Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh did just that, earning close to the limit at George Mason University's Antonin Scalia School of Law. Justice Amy Coney Barrett did the same at Notre Dame law school.

The code of ethics spelled out under federal law for judges, and which the justices are committed to following, also allows them to be paid for books they write. Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who has earned over $3.6 million in book royalties and advances since being appointed to the court in 2009, reported earning $149,000 in book royalties in 2022. Justice Gorsuch, whose book deal after he joined the court earned him a total of $910,000, reported $277.51 in writing income in 2022. Justice Thomas, who got a reported $1.5 million advance money for his autobiography in 2003, has not reported royalty or other book income since then.

Some of the justices also earn rental income: Justice Sotomayor on the New York apartment she bought and lived in prior to joining the court; Chief Justice Roberts on his vacation homes in Maine and Ireland, and Justice Elena Kagan on a parking spot in Washington, D.C.

And then, of course, there is spousal income. Chief Justice Roberts' wife, Jane, who abandoned her own legal career in order to avoid potential conflicts of interest when her husband became chief justice, has come in for some criticism for the job she does now recruiting legal talent. Some critics have said this job too poses legal conflicts, though many ethics experts disagree. The chief justice, however, took the added step this year of clarifying on his disclosure form that his wife owns an equity stake in Macrae Inc., the recruiting company where she works. Jane Roberts acquired the equity stake in the firm when she started working there, the chief justice wrote, and at the time it was valued between $100,000 and $250,000.

Finally, the seven justices who filed disclosure forms on Wednesday each reported a half dozen trips or so to deliver speeches, with all the travel, sometimes abroad, paid for by the host entity.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Nina Totenberg is NPR's award-winning legal affairs correspondent. Her reports air regularly on NPR's critically acclaimed newsmagazines All Things Considered, Morning Edition, and Weekend Edition.

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