Justice Clarence Thomas earned $500,000 in book advances in 2007, one of three Supreme Court justices to receive book-related income last year, according to financial disclosures released Friday.
The annual disclosures by the court’s nine members also show that at least two of them significantly decreased their stock holdings, at a time when several have recused themselves from cases because of the potential for conflicts of interest. In one case, just last month, the court failed to reach a quorum of six members, largely because of justices’ stock holdings.
Justice Thomas has now received more than $1 million in advances since 2003 from HarperCollins, which published his autobiography, “My Grandfather’s Son,” in October.
But he is still among the least wealthy members of the court, which could have as many as seven millionaires among the other justices.
Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and David H. Souter appear to be the court’s wealthiest members. Justice Ginsburg had assets of at least $11 million and as much as $50 million at year’s end, and Justice Souter had between a bit more than $6 million and approximately $30 million. (The value of each holding is presented as a broad estimate, making precise calculation impossible. Home equity is not included.)
The court’s two newest members, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., decreased their stock holdings. Though justices are not required to rid themselves of stock when they join the court, they cannot hear cases involving a company in which they own shares. As a result, Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito had to sit out cases this term, as did Justice Stephen G. Breyer.
Chief Justice Roberts, whose range of assets was between more than $2 million and more than $6 million, liquidated all his stock in four companies. Justice Alito sold all his stock in one company and lessened his holdings in three others. His net worth was between more than $500,000 and under $2 million.
The disclosures do not say whether the justices shed these holdings in order to hear cases either since heard or still pending, though Justice Roberts’s sale of Citigroup and Cisco Systems stock allowed him to hear cases involving those two companies. It is also unclear whether they were influenced by a law, enacted in 2006, that lets justices defer the payment of capital gains taxes on stock sales by reinvesting the profits in mutual funds or government securities.
Justice Breyer, who also has a diverse stock portfolio, sold stock in three companies. His wealth, which includes book royalties, is between some $5 million and $17 million.
Justice Anthony M. Kennedy saw some increase in his assets in 2007 but remains among the least wealthy justices. He reported assets of between roughly $350,000 and $750,000.
Justice Antonin Scalia reported assets of some $1.5 million to $3 million. Justice Scalia, who last year received a much smaller book advance than Justice Thomas, led the court with 33 expense-paid trips, including journeys to six foreign capitals.
Justice John Paul Stevens, the court’s longest-serving member, had assets of approximately $2 million to $7 million.
Chief Justice Roberts was paid $212,100 last year, while associate justices made $203,000. All received raises of more than $5,000 this year.