It’s that time of the year again, kids: when the members of the Supreme Court release their financial disclosure forms. We now get to engage in a little bit of financial voyeurism, learning which justices have gold-plated gavels, and which ones must settle for plastic. Delicious!
Unfortunately, the information isn’t as comprehensive as it could be. Asset values are reported in ranges, not exact dollar amounts. Primary residences aren’t included. But we’ll take what we can get.
As was the case last year, Justice Ginsburg and Justice Souter top the list. Here are the asset ranges, justice by justice:
Ruth Bader Ginsburg: $6,400,000-$28,000,000
David Souter: $5,600,000-$26,300,000
Stephen G. Breyer: $4,125,080-$15,440,000
John G. Roberts, Jr.: $2,235,063-$5,860,000
John Paul Stevens: $1,590,018-$3,480,000
Antonin Scalia: $700,019-$1,595,000
Samuel A. Alito, Jr.: $665,025-$1,740,000
Clarence Thomas: $150,006-$410,000
Anthony Kennedy: $65,005-$195,000
Additional commentary and links, after the jump.
Here are some random observations about this data:
* Justice Ginsburg has reclaimed the top spot among the justices, at least in terms of asset ranges. The lowest and highest points of her range are higher than those of Justice Souter. This is a reversal of last year, when Justice Souter’s asset ranges were higher than Justice Ginsburg’s. (Of course, since only ranges are provided, we can’t determine with certainty who is the richest — although we’re betting on RBG.)
* Justice Breyer is doing pretty nicely for himself. Of course, he did marry well. And if primary residences were included, his assets would be a few million dollars higher — his residence in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is quite a nice pile o’ bricks. (According to an article in the December 2005 issue of Washingtonian magazine — sadly, not available online — SGB’s house is worth a cool million.)
* With respect to Chief Justice Roberts, Tony Mauro of the Legal Times has this to report:
Speaking of Roberts, his form indicates that one of the chores he attended to before he was sworn in as chief justice was selling some of his stock holdings. In the week before he joined the Supreme Court, he shed relatively small amounts of stock in Agilent, AstraZeneca, and Coca-Cola, among others. But he retained larger holdings in Time Warner, Dell, and Microsoft.
Roberts’ decisions may reflect a problem that judges face when they sell securities to avoid conflicts of interest: They have to pay capital-gains taxes on the sale. High-level executive branch employees who sell stocks for that reason are allowed to defer their gains by investing in replacement property within 60 days. A bill that would grant the same deferral to judges has passed the House of Representatives and is pending before the Senate.
* Justice Stevens is very conscientious about filling out these forms. He dutifully reported that for throwing out the first pitch at a Chicago Cubs game, on September 14, he was given “box suite seating for 12 [and] food.”
* Justice Scalia’s wealth is nothing to scoff at. He can definitely afford the 5-series BMW sedan that he tools around Washington in. (In fact, he could probably upgrade to a 7-series. Go ahead, Nino — you’re worth it!)
* Justice Alito is also doing just fine. And if one were to include the value of his mansion in West Caldwell, New Jersey — which is perched on top of a hill, and looks like a smaller version of Tony Soprano’s house in nearby North Caldwell, New Jersey — those numbers would go up by a million or so.
Also, check out this Wikipedia entry for West Caldwell, which we swear we had no hand in writing:
Supreme Court Associate Justice Samuel Alito and his wife, Martha, live in West Caldwell. His daughter, Laura, attended James Caldwell High School. She is said to be very pretty with long blond hair and gorgeous eyes.
Let’s check out the IP address for the contributor responsible for the comments about Laura’s looks. Perhaps she has a computer-savvy boyfriend?
* Justice Thomas: What’s going on here, CT? What happened to the $1.5 million book advance?
* Justice Kennedy brings up the rear. Yes, SCOTUS justices don’t make as much money as many lawyers in private practice (including their former clerks). But why is AMK, who has been earning a six-figure income for decades now — dating back to his service on the Ninth Circuit — so impoverished?
One possible explanation: he plowed a lot of his dough into his house, located in McLean’s Langley area (just two blocks away from Justice Scalia). According to Washingtonian, Justice Kennedy’s “one story brick home, with three fireplaces and an English basement,” is worth $1.1 million. Not bad!
A Millionaire Club of High Court Justices [Legal Times]
Souter and Ginsburg Are Rich; Thomas and Kennedy Are Not [WSJ Law Blog]