U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor has seen a significant rise in her net worth since joining the highest court in 2009, after being appointed to the nation’s highest judiciary body by former President Barack Obama.
Sotomayor’s total investments in 2007 were between $50,001 and $115,000, according to her financial disclosure forms. However, by 2021, her investments had soared to somewhere between $1.5 million and $6.4 million.
A key factor in this substantial increase was her earnings from writing books. According to an Associated Press report, Sotomayor has made at least $3.7 million since joining the Supreme Court from her memoir and children’s books, which continue to yield six-figure royalty payments annually.
Her publisher, Penguin Random House, has been actively involved in organizing her talks, often encouraging public institutions to buy a certain number of copies or suggesting attendees purchase books for ticket acquisition. Interestingly, Sotomayor did not recuse herself from various cases involving Random House before the Supreme Court, despite her significant earnings from her book deal with the publisher.
This situation has raised eyebrows among critics and ethics experts. “Justice Sotomayor is a good person who appears to have made a mistake by having her staff sell her books,” said Mike Davis, founder and president of the Article III Project.
Sotomayor is not alone among Supreme Court Justices benefiting from book deals, a trend that has triggered alarm bells among ethics observers. Justice Amy Coney Barrett, for instance, reportedly received a $2 million advance for an upcoming book. “I’m very concerned about the books,” stated Richard Painter, a University of Minnesota law professor and former chief White House ethics lawyer. He raised the issue of potential conflicts of interest, noting the lucrative nature of book deals and the possibility of publishers having cases before the high court.
Painter also touched on the issue of investments and their potential to create ethical dilemmas for justices. “Justices should not be invested in individual stocks,” he warned, pointing out the potential requirement for justices to recuse themselves if cases involve companies they have invested in. He further mentioned the potential conflicts between book deals and investments, as book royalties can enable further investments.
The news about Sotomayor’s wealth increase comes amid recent media coverage detailing the financials of and gifts received by Republican-appointed Supreme Court justices, particularly Justice Clarence Thomas. However, some critics note a lack of equivalent reporting on Sotomayor’s royalties and wealth increase. Mike Davis pointed out the “deafening silence of so many Democrats” and suggested a different standard applied to conservative justices.