Associated Press//June 8, 2023
//June 8, 2023
Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson disclosed Wednesday that she received a $1,200 congratulatory floral display from Oprah Winfrey and $6,580 in designer clothing for a magazine photo shoot in her first months as the first Black woman on the Supreme Court.
The details of gifts given to Jackson were among the reports provided by most members of the court in their annual filings, which give a partial window onto their finances. The reports were released Wednesday.
But the report that was most anticipated — that of Justice Clarence Thomas, who has been under scrutiny for his receipt of undisclosed gifts from a Republican donor — was not among the filings. Thomas, along with Justice Samuel Alito, sought an extension for up to 90 days.
Thomas’ receipt of gifts, valued at several hundred thousand dollars, from the Republican donor Harlan Crow has prompted calls for ethics reform on the nation’s highest court. It was not clear why either man needed more time.
Once a year the justices join with other federal judges in providing a look at their finances. They are supposed to disclose paid travel, outside income, investments, significant gifts and the source of their spouses’ income.
Among the reports Wednesday, Justice Sonia Sotomayor said she received nearly $150,000 in royalties for two children’s books last year and another $12,000 in payments for possible stage and video versions of “Just Ask! Be Different, Be Brave, Be You.” The book, intended for kids age 4 to 8, introduces readers to children who face what Sotomayor, who was diagnosed with diabetes as a child, calls “life challenges.” Sotomayor, the court’s first Latina justice, has been paid more than $3 million in advances and royalties for her books, including her memoir, ”My Beloved World.”
Less than two months after Jackson joined the court in late June, she was featured in a Vogue story first posted online that took note of her historic role. In one accompanying photo taken by Annie Leibovitz, Jackson is wearing a blue coat and dark dress by Oscar de la Renta. A second Leibovitz photo shows Jackson in a brown Aliette jacket.
The report did not specify the size or composition of the pricey gift of flowers from Winfrey.
The justices are being paid $285,400 this year, except for Chief Justice John Roberts, who earns $298,500.
Other justices reporting outside income were Amy Coney Barrett, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, who all brought in nearly $30,000 for law school teaching assignments. Barrett taught at Notre Dame, her former employer and alma mater, while Gorsuch and Kavanaugh were at George Mason University.
The heightened focus on ethics at the high court stems from a series of reports revealing that Thomas has for years received undisclosed expensive gifts, including international travel, from Crow, a wealthy businessman and benefactor of conservative causes. Crow also purchased the house in Georgia where Thomas’s mother continues to live and paid for two years of private school tuition for a child raised by Thomas and his wife, Ginni.
Supreme Court justices do not have a binding code of ethics and have resisted the idea that they adopt one or have one imposed on them by Congress. All nine justices recently signed a statement of ethics that Roberts provided to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Roberts recently acknowledged that the justices can do more to address ethical concerns.
New reporting guidelines adopted by the federal judiciary in March make clear that transportation provided to judges should be disclosed in all instances. Food, lodging or entertainment received as “personal hospitality of any individual” does not need to be reported if it is at the personal residence of that individual or their family.
Mark Sherman and Jessica Gresko report for The Associated Press.g