Sotomayor Scandal Cancel

On Tuesday the Associated Press broke a story showing how far and deep the Supreme Court’s rot goes with this ominous title:

Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor’s staff prodded colleges and libraries to buy her books

Oooh, it sounds exciting. Let’s keep reading. And reading. And reading. OK, here’s something about Justice Sotomayor’s behavior:

“When (Sotomayor) is invited to participate in a book program, Chambers staff recommends the number of books (for an organization to order) based on the size of the audience so as not to disappoint attendees who may anticipate books being available at an event,” the court said.

OK, that’s not it.  Maybe this is it:

Supreme Court staffers have been deeply involved in organizing speaking engagements intended to sell books. That is conduct prohibited for members of Congress and the executive branch, who are barred under ethics rules from using government resources, including staff, for personal financial gain. Lower federal court judges are also instructed to not “lend the prestige of the judicial office to advance” their “private interests.”

Aha! The liberal justices are doing something wrong. Finally we have a meaningful “both sides” discussion. Oh, wait, early on in the article the authors told us that no rules were actually broken:

But when it comes to promoting her literary career, Sotomayor is free to do what other government officials cannot because the Supreme Court does not have a formal code of conduct, leaving the nine justices to largely write and enforce their own rules.

You really have to give it to the authors for writing an OUTRAGE! story with the most milquetoast source material possible:  Sotomayor, the first Latina member of SCOTUS, writes books and when she gives talks she will sometimes sign books for attendees. Is it against the law? No. But doesn’t it seem wrong? Surely it’s got to be wrong for a liberal justice to sell some books while visiting a government building for a not-for-profit organization.

The authors make a big point about how other justices sell books too, so they’re all guilty of the same thing:

Other justices have benefited from similar arrangements. But how much they have made from individual schools or events is difficult to assess because the justices only report lump-sum earnings at year’s end.

Justice Clarence Thomas has collected about $1 million since 2006. Stephen Breyer, who retired in 2022, reported roughly $700,000 in royalty income in the past two decades. Justice Neil Gorsuch has disclosed more than $900,000 since his 2017 confirmation. Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who was confirmed in 2020, received a reported $2 million advance for a forthcoming book. Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson signed a book deal, but the amount of her advance was not public.

Did you notice that all of the other issues that Alito, Roberts, and Thomas are involved with are all left out of this discussion? Yep.

And to further deflate the sense of outage the authors fail to achieve, they are forced to admit that they’re making a mountain out of a molehill:

A person close to Sotomayor, who insisted on anonymity to discuss the justice’s book dealings, said that Sotomayor “has not and will not profit from sales” of her memoir beyond the $3.1 million advance that she received and that doing so would “require purchases of hundreds of thousands of additional books, more than double the purchases to date.”

There’s a lot of retelling about the things Sotomayor’s staff did to prepare for some appearances, how they–and her publisher, only further dilutes the story–suggested that the hosting institutions purchase additional books, depending on the projected attendance. I guess that’s the “prodding” in the title.

The authors bring in an expert to weigh in on Sotamayer’s actions:

Such promotional efforts risk damaging the Supreme Court’s public standing further by placing an individual justice above the institution itself, said J. Michael Luttig, a former federal appeals court judge who has pushed for the justices to adopt a formal code of conduct.

“I have never believed that Supreme Court justices should write books to supplement their judicial incomes,” said Luttig, who was considered for the Supreme Court by President George W. Bush. “The potential for promotion of the individual justices over the Court at the reputational expense of the Court as an institution, as well as the appearance of such, is unavoidable.”

He sounds very high-minded, doesn’t he? Well, his DOJ job under George HW Bush was to husband Clarence Thomas’s nomination through the Senate confirmation hearings, so I feel free to toss his opinion.

Don’t get me wrong—the Supreme Court should have strict and clear ethic regulations and the justices should be held to account. As citizens, we deserve that. But reporters should not be making up fake scandals to drag everyone else on the Court into the mud.

Honesty is always the best policy in reporting: