Gifts to Supreme Court justices have been a hot topic for the last few months, in the wake of a revelation that conservative Justice Clarence Thomas has been receiving gifts of travel from a wealthy GOP donor without disclosing any of it.
Thomas has said that he didn’t need to disclose any of those gifts under the current rules that govern the high court, especially considering the donor is a close personal friend of his.
That’s why the Supreme Court’s annual disclosure forms made such big news when they were released last week. Federal law mandates that this paperwork be filed. Members of the judiciary have to disclose all of their personal financial interests in the last year, as well as any salaries for their spouses, gifts they received and investments they made.
Seven of the nine justices filed their forms for 2022 by last Wednesday. Samuel Alito and Thomas were each provided with extensions to file theirs, the Administrative Office of the United States Courts said.
Among the disclosures was that Oprah Winfrey sent a $1,200 “congratulatory floral arrangement” to liberal Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, who was confirmed to the high court last year. Three conservative justices – Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett – received flights to Italy.
Liberal Justice Sonia Sotomayor got almost $150,000 from her book publisher for royalties.
In total, 20 justices reported 20 different trips that were taken over the last year. Some justices took more trips than others, though Chief Justice John Roberts didn’t report taking any.
Many of these justices took these trips to attend conferences or give speeches, and some were paid for by groups that are well-funded or by universities.
For instance, Barrett went to Italy last September to give a speech to the American College of Trial Lawyers in Rome. Kavanaugh went to Rome in September of last year as well, where he participated at a conference “with foreign and American judges” at the Kellogg Institute for International Studies at the University of Notre Dame.
New York University flew Sotomayor to Scotland last July so she could participate in the leadership conference for its law school. During 2022, she took other trips to Chicago and St. Louis for similar purposes.
Liberal Justice Elena Kagan and Barrett reported taking the most trips of any justice, at six each. Kagan primarily traveled to cities in America to give speeches at various universities.
Jackson, the first-year justice, reported a number of different gifts that she received. One was a designer dress and jacket valued at $6,580 that she got from the media company that publishes Vogue magazine. The clothes were sent to her as part of a photo shoot the publication did with her for a story the magazine published in August.
None of the other justices on the Supreme Court reported receiving any gifts. Federal rules state that any gifts that are valued at more than $415 must be disclosed on these annual forms.