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By Mae Slater on
 May 21, 2024

Amy Coney Barrett Secures $425,000 for Upcoming Book, Disclosures Reveal

In 2021, Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett received the highest book income among her peers, spotlighting the financial dealings of U.S. justices.

Business Insider reported that Justice Barrett, an Associate Justice appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2020 by former President Donald Trump, received a significant book payment totaling $425,000 in 2021.

This payment was made by the Javelin Group for a forthcoming book. Barrett’s book income was the largest reported by any Supreme Court justice that year.

The forthcoming book, signed with Sentinel, a conservative imprint of Penguin Random House, will discuss judicial impartiality, focusing on the premise that personal feelings should not influence judicial decisions. This theme is especially poignant given the ongoing discussions about ethics and transparency within the highest levels of the judiciary.

The deal was initially reported by Politico last April, stating Barrett secured a $2 million advance, although the $425,000 figure was confirmed through recent financial disclosures.

Other Justices' Earnings and Gifts in 2021

Barrett was not the only justice to disclose income from books. Neil Gorsuch, another Trump appointee, reported receiving $250,000 from HarperCollins.

Sonia Sotomayor, appointed by President Obama, earned $115,000 from Penguin Random House. Stephen Breyer, who was appointed by President Clinton, reported a modest $8,000 from his literary ventures in the same year.

Besides book income, justices also reported receiving gifts, with Gorsuch disclosing a $699.99 pair of cowboy boots as a gift.

These disclosures are part of a broader set of financial transparency reports required by federal law, which include sources of income and gifts.

The reports come amid a backdrop of scrutiny over federal judges' ethics, with The Wall Street Journal reporting last September that over 130 federal judges had failed to recuse themselves from cases in which they had financial interests.

Legislative Reforms Following Ethics Violations

Responding to these concerns, in October, a bipartisan bill was introduced in Congress demanding stricter financial transparency from federal judges, including Supreme Court justices. This legislation requires judges to report stock trades worth over $1,000 within 45 days of the transaction.

Last month, President Joe Biden signed this bill into law, marking a significant step towards enhancing judicial transparency. The move aims to prevent conflicts of interest and maintain public trust in the judiciary's impartiality.

These reforms were partly inspired by earlier reports and the recent disclosures, which highlight the complex financial landscapes navigated by members of the judiciary.

While the Supreme Court justices' earnings from books and other sources provide a supplement to their annual salaries—$274,200 for associate justices and $286,700 for Chief Justice John Roberts—these figures are modest compared to their counterparts in private legal practices and academia.

However, the substantial book deals and additional incomes draw attention to the potential influence of external financial interests on the impartiality expected of judges. This concern is central to ongoing debates about the adequacy of current ethical standards and transparency measures within the U.S. judiciary.

The disclosures and subsequent legislative actions suggest a growing awareness and responsiveness to these issues, reflecting an effort to align judicial practices with public expectations of transparency and integrity.

Conclusion: A Comprehensive Overview of Judicial Transparency

In conclusion, Justice Amy Coney Barrett's $425,000 book income in 2021 was the highest among her Supreme Court peers, raising questions about financial transparency in the judiciary. This issue, coupled with other justices' incomes and the legislative measures that followed, underscores a critical moment for judicial ethics in America. As the legal community continues to navigate these challenges, the public's expectation for clear and consistent disclosure remains at the forefront of the national conversation about judicial integrity and impartiality.

Written By:
Mae Slater

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