Brian Slodysko and Eric Tucker
July 11, 2023
WASHINGTON (AP) — 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.
“This is one of the most basic tenets of ethics laws that protects taxpayer dollars from misuse,” said Kedric Payne, a former deputy chief counsel at the Office of Congressional Ethics and current general counsel for the Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan government watchdog group in Washington. “The problem at the Supreme Court is there’s no one there to say whether this is wrong.”