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Supreme Court justices disclose book advances, including nearly $900,000 for Jackson

Justices of the U.S. Supreme Court
(Olivier Douliery / AFP/Getty Images)
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The Supreme Court justices reported Friday that they are receiving big-money advances for writing books about themselves or the law, often shortly after arriving at the court.

Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson reported she received an $893,750 advance last year for a memoir she plans to write called “Lovely One.”

Her publisher said the book will be out later this year and tells of “her family’s ascent from segregation to her confirmation on America’s highest court within the span of one generation.” Jackson also reported receiving four concert tickets valued at $3,700 from Beyoncé.

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Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh reported receiving a $340,000 advance for what was described as a “legal memoir” that he is working on.

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And Justice Neil M. Gorsuch said he received $250,000 from publisher Harper Collins for a book he is writing with a former clerk.

Several justices in recent years have reported sizable book advances.

Justice Amy Coney Barrett reported two years ago that she received a $425,000 advance to write a book about the law that is still in the works.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor has earned about $4 million in advances and royalties for several books, including “My Beloved World,” a memoir she agreed to write a year after joining the court in 2009.

Sotomayor was also criticized last year for having used court staff to encourage sales of her books at her public appearances.

In this year’s disclosure report, Sotomayor said she had received $86,000 in book royalties as well as $1,879 for doing a voiceover on the children’s TV show “Alma’s Way.”

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The justices, who earn $298,500 a year in salary, are limited in how much they can earn in outside income, such as through teaching, but there is no limit on how much they can earn through writing books.

The trend of justices writing memoirs may be traced to 2002, when Justice Sandra Day O’Connor published “Lazy B,” which recounted her growing up on her family’s cattle ranch in Arizona.

Five years later, Justice Clarence Thomas published “My Grandfather’s Son,” his memoir of growing up in poverty in Georgia and the role his grandfather played in shaping his life.

Thomas has been much criticized for taking lavish and undisclosed vacations that were paid for by billionaire Harlan Crow, and he issued a revised report Friday for 2019, acknowledging that he had accepted lodging and food in Indonesia and at the Bohemian Grove in Northern California that Crow paid for.

Thomas did not disclose the full cost of the trip or how he traveled there.

Both trips had been revealed last year by ProPublica.

Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. did not file his report but asked for a six-month extension to file it.

Alito, along with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Elena Kagan, are the only members of the court who have not published books or taken advances to write one.

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Gabe Roth, executive director of a watchdog group Fix the Court, has been a steady critic of justices receiving gifts, including travel and free memberships in clubs. But he said he was not troubled by big book contracts.

“I don’t have an issue with it,” he said. “They are public servants, and they have inspiring life stories, so I don’t see anything wrong with it.”

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