In wake of the shocking revelations about the massive gifts Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has been taking from GOP megadonor Harlan Crow, there’s a renewed national interest in the finances of all nine of our Supreme Court justices. And while their financial disclosures can only tell us so much, what they do show is some cause for alarm given the types of decisions these justices are tasked with making.
Bloomberg News analyzed the most recent financial disclosures available from the Supreme Court justices, which are from 2021 and were released last year, and their findings had two major conclusions: first, that the rules surrounding what these justices are required to disclose make it intensely difficult to assess the actual wealth of these figures; and second, that at least six of the nine justices are multimillionaires, based off of what they did disclose.
Bloomberg notes that Supreme Court justices are not required to disclose the value of their homes or their retirement accounts, which already creates big gaps in what we can assess of the justices’ finances. Justices are only required to disclose finances that present a potential conflict of interest, of which Justice John Roberts reported between $9 million and $27 million in assets, cementing himself as the wealthiest justice currently sitting on the Supreme Court. Roberts’s reported assets include a cottage in Maine and a cottage in Ireland: his Maryland residence, not included on his financial disclosures, is worth $2.2 million according to Zillow.
Neil Gorsuch came in as the second-wealthiest Supreme Court justice, reporting between $4 million and $12 million in assets: Justice Samuel Alito reported between $2.9 million and $7.4 million, and Justice Amy Coney Barrett reported between $2.2 million and $8.5 million. Alito’s investment portfolio has been public knowledge for some time given the sheer number of cases he’s had to recuse himself from due to a financial conflict of interest as an investor, including cases involving Johnson & Johnson and Exxon. Bloomberg further found that a handful of these justices earn passive income as landlords, with Justice Elena Kagan renting out a Washington property and Justice Sonia Sotomayer renting out a New York property. Supreme Court justices are also receiving substantial sums for book deals with increasing frequency, with Justice Sonia Sotomayor collecting more than $110,000 in royalties for her book, Gorsuch collecting more than $250,000, and Barrett collecting $425,000.
Democrats have been calling for stronger scrutiny and new procedures enforcing ethics rules for members of the Supreme Court with renewed vigor ever since ProPublica’s revelations that Justice Clarence Thomas has been taking private jet rides and vacations on yachts from Crow. This new review from Bloomberg suggests that these justices may not just have a conflict when it comes to whom they’re accepting money from, but the fact of their wealth alone may hinder them from making decisions with an understanding of how a majority of Americans live, and that their interest in living financially comfortable lives may consciously or unconsciously weigh on their rulings.