YUM! The delicious financial disclosure reports required for the justices of the Supreme Court were recently released to the public by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, as the Associated Press reports here and the Washington Post reports here. These financial disclosure reports are required by the Ethics in Government Act. (Article III Groupie loves the Ethics in Government Act!)
Not surprisingly, most of the justices are quite affluent. Some of the justices appear to have enjoyed significant success in their investments, which may explain why their wealth exceeds what one might expect based just on their judicial salaries. (As of January 2004, the Chief Justice earns $203,000 a year, and the Associate Justices receive $194,300 each in annual salary, as shown in this handy table of salaries for federal officials. These are handsome amounts, although they're a far cry from what partners at major law firms earn, as breathlessly recounted each year by The American Lawyer.)
As the AP article notes, at least five of the nine justices are millionaires: Justices Stevens, O'Connor, Souter, Ginsburg, and Breyer. And Justices Souter and Ginsburg, with reportable assets of at least $5 million, qualify as filthy stinking rich. Two more justices, Chief Justice Rehnquist and Justice Scalia, are also quite comfortable, with reportable assets that may exceed $1 million. Only two justices, Justices Kennedy and Thomas, have reportable assets under $500,000. (Perhaps Justices Souter and Ginsburg can write a book of financial advice for Justices Kennedy and Thomas. Proposed title: Rich Judge, Poor Judge.)
Here's UTR's dishy take on the 2003 reports, justice by justice. The reports aren't as juicy as they could be, insofar as they (1) don't require the justices to report all of their assets, just certain investment assets (e.g., securities, trusts, IRA accounts; personal residences are not included); and (2) only require the justices to give a range of values for each asset, rather than the exact amount. But the reports are still full of pretty interesting info, and UTR is glad to have them.
1. Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist
In addition to his salary as Chief, WHR received a $25,000 advance for his new book, Centennial Crisis: The Disputed Election of 1876, as well as $10,000 in royalties. He also received a nice $12,500 stipend for his participation in a teaching program at the University of Arizona School of Law.
The Chief's reportable assets come in between $530,000 and $1.2 million. He appears to be a rather conservative investor, with a cautious investment strategy that appears to be focused on principal preservation and income generation over capital appreciation. (Let the retirement speculation begin anew!)
2. Associate Justice John Paul Stevens
JPS's report isn't too thrilling. He's a pretty "clubby" guy, having received gifts of honorary membership in no less than three clubs: the Coral Ridge Country Club, the Union League Club of Chicago, and the Washington Golf and Country Club. His reportable assets are beween $1.6 million and $3.4 million. That's a lot of bowties!
3. Associate Justice Sandra Day O'Connor
SDO's report is quite complex, replete with numerous footnotes, as a result of her extensive (and nicely diversified) investments. Her reportable assets--which include real estate partnerships, T-bills, municipal bonds, fractional interests in oil wells, and about 40 individual stocks--come in between $2.9 million and $6 million. (Despite her wealth, SDO appears to be a pleasant and down-to-earth person. "Don't be fooled by the rocks that she got!")
SDO appears to be a rather sophisticated investor. But she, like many of us, got burned by the techs. Last year she sold, at a loss, shares in Cisco, Qualcomm (misspelled in her report), and Sun Microsystems. Sandy, we feel your pain.
4. Associate Justice Antonin Scalia
A former law school professor, AS supplemented his salary through teaching at four universities, earning an extra $23,000 (the maximum permitted) for his efforts. When not duck hunting with Vice President Cheney, AS took 20 expenses-paid trips to destinations as far-flung as Alaska, Italy, France, and Japan, to speak at various universities or before different groups. AS's reportable assets amount to between $710,000 and $1.3 million. The Duck Hunter isn't exactly Scrooge McDuck, but that kind of dough is nothing to quack at!
(BTW, for someone widely regarded as always wanting to be right, AS's report is not pretty. Misspellings, typographical errors, and typing outside the boxes all can be found in abundance.)
5. Associate Justice Anthony M. Kennedy
Like AS, AMK earned an extra $23,000 through teaching, and he took numerous paid trips (but to considerably less exciting destinations, e.g., Sacramento). AMK's investments are painfully boring, consisting of two bank accounts and three life insurance policies. AMK appears to have paid dearly for this "stuff-it-in-the-mattress" investment strategy: his reportable assets amount to only $75,000-$180,000. Perhaps SDO should put AMK in touch with her financial planner.
6. Associate Justice David H. Souter
DHS is known for being a solitary sort of fellow, and his financial disclosure report bears this out. Unlike most of his colleagues, he earned no outside income, took no paid trips, and received no gifts. But the value of his reportable investments is an eye-popping $5.2 to $25.5 million (compared to between $1 million and $5.4 million in 2002). A footnote in the report suggests that the acquisition of Granite State Bankshares by Chittenden Corp. was very, very good to him. The use of value ranges makes it impossible to determine with certainty, but it is possible that DHS may have overtaken Justice Ginsburg, the perennial winner of the "who's the wealthiest" contest, as the richest justice.
With this kind of wealth, who needs the Secret Service? DHS, who was recently assaulted while taking a jog, can live it up "P. Diddy"-style: he can hire bodyguards to jog along with him, just as P. Diddy did when he ran the New York City marathon.
(I know, I know--as Slate explains in this article, the Secret Service isn't charged with ensuring the safety of the justices, who are actually protected by either Supreme Court police officers or federal marshals. I just couldn't resist the opportunity to breezily ask, "Who needs the Secret Service?")
7. Associate Justice Clarence Thomas
The most interesting fact in CT's report is the hefty $500,000 advance he received for his memoirs, expected to be published next year by HarperCollins. In the book, CT is expected to discuss his 1991 confirmation battle (which apparently he enjoys talking about around the Supreme Court building, like a veteran telling war stories, which might be surprising given its bitter and lurid nature). CT's reportable assets, which presumably do not reflect this advance, are worth between $210,000 and $410,000.
8. Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg
RBG is livin' large, with reportable assets between $5.6 and $23.4 million. With assets like that, they should call her Justice Ruth "Bling-Bling" Ginsburg. RBG might want to diversify by investing in a makeover, however, so she would look less like Heather Matarazzo from Welcome to the Dollhouse.
How did RBG amass such wealth? RBG was a law professor and ACLU lawyer before taking the bench, so you'd think she wasn't exactly rakin' in the dough. But RBG's husband, Martin D. Ginsburg, was for many years a superstar tax partner at the high-powered New York law firm of Fried Frank (where he remains of counsel, having retired from full-time practice some years ago, in order to teach law). His biography on the Fried Frank website humorously notes that for college he "attended Cornell University, [where he] stood very low in his class and played on the golf team. He graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School which, in those years, did not field a golf team." It also notes, with wry understatement, that he moved as a law professor from Columbia to Georgetown in 1980, "when his wife obtained a good job in Washington." (That "good job" would, of course, be RBG's appointment to the D.C. Circuit, the muscularly powerful federal appeals court whose judges are handmaidens to the Supremes.)
(RBG's financial disclosure report is commendably detailed, as one might expect from a former professor. For example, she provides an attachment with a narrative explanation of the various gifts she received, including a defense of each gift as proper under the rules of judicial ethics.)
9. Associate Justice Stephen G. Breyer
Like Delta Airlines, SGB loves to fly, and it shows. SGB accepted expenses-paid trips to several European destinations, including Luxembourg, Paris, Florence, and London. SGB's investments are, like SDO's, extensive and well-diversified, including numerous individual stocks, municipal bonds, and real estate. Ranked by reportable assets, SGB comes in third, behind DHS and RBG, with holdings valued between $4 million and $15 million.
Okay, that's all for now. Please e-mail me with any comments, corrections, or additional tidbits. Thanks!
Hugs and kisses,