If Congress won’t with the revelations about the courts members side hustling ….
The media IS….
For colleges and libraries seeking a boldfaced name for a guest lecturer, few come bigger than Sonia Sotomayor, the Supreme Court justice who rose from poverty in the Bronx to the nation’s highest court.
She has benefited, too — from schools’ purchases of hundreds, sometimes thousands, of the books she has written over the years.
Sotomayor’s staff has often prodded public institutions that have hosted the justice to buy her memoir or children’s books, works that have earned her at least $3.7 million since she joined the court in 2009. Details of those events, largely out of public view, were obtained by The Associated Press through more than 100 open records requests to public institutions. The resulting tens of thousands of pages of documents offer a rare look at Sotomayor and her fellow justices beyond their official duties.
In her case, the documents reveal repeated examples of taxpayer-funded court staff performing tasks for the justice’s book ventures, which workers in other branches of government are barred from doing. 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….
Supreme Court justices and donors mingle at campus visits…
The Associated Press obtained tens of thousands of pages of emails and other documents that reveal the extent to which public colleges and universities have seen visits by justices as opportunities to generate donations -– regularly putting justices in the room with influential donors, including some whose industries have had interests before the court.
The documents also reveal that justices spanning the court’s ideological divide have lent the prestige of their positions to partisan activity, headlining speaking events with prominent politicians, or advanced their own personal interests, such as sales of their books, through college visits.
The conduct would likely be prohibited if done by lower court federal judges. But the Supreme Court’s definition of banned fundraising is so narrow -– simply an event that raises more than it costs or where guests are asked for donations -– that it does not account for soliciting contributors later while reminding them of the special access they were afforded…..
Justices teach when the Supreme Court isn’t in session. It can double as an all-expenses-paid trip…
Teaching is encouraged as a way to demystify the nation’s highest court while exposing the justices to a cross-section of the public. For decades, they have traveled the globe during court recesses to lecture. It is a permissible practice so long their earning are less than the court’s roughly $30,000 cap on outside income….
The particulars of these excursions are often shrouded from public view because the justices are only required to offer a spare accounting on their annual financial disclosure forms.
But details obtained by the AP reveal that these trips, which would cost the justices thousands of dollars if paid out of pocket, are in some cases subsidized by anonymous donors to the schools whose motivations can be difficult to assess.
Dan Meisenzahl, a spokesman for the University of Hawaii, said the school is so isolated from the continental United States that offering first-rate accommodations to the justices is one way to ensure they will make the trip.
“As a public university in one of the most isolated places on Earth, our Jurist-In-Residence program would not be possible without our donors and we thank them for their support.” Meisenzahl said in a statement.
While locking in details before Justice Samuel Alito’s 2011 visit to Honolulu, a University of Hawaii law school official, Cyndi Quinn, promoted the program’s flexibility.
In a statement responding to questions, the Supreme Court noted the $30,000 figure and added that “teaching must be at an accredited educational institution or continuing legal educational program and must be approved in advance by the Chief Justice (or by the Associate Justices if it involves teaching by the Chief Justice).”
Documents obtained by The Associated Press through public records requests reveal that some all-expenses-paid trips — to Italy, Iceland and Hawaii, among others — are light on classroom instruction, with ample time carved out for the justices’ leisure….