Anthony Kennedy, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, Elena Kagan, Fabulosity, Federal Judges, John Roberts, Money, Rankings, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Samuel Alito, SCOTUS, Sonia Sotomayor, Stephen Breyer, Supreme Court

Who Is The Richest Supreme Court Justice? A Net Worth Ranking

Hint: the smallest justice may have the biggest net worth.

If you said Justice Sonia Sotomayor, that wouldn’t be a bad guess. She has earned millions of dollars in royalties from her bestselling book, My Beloved World (affiliate link). Her days of dental debts are behind her.

But she’s still far from the richest member of the Court. That honor would appear to belong to another woman, whose stature might be small but whose net worth is gigantic….

Here’s a report from the Center for Public Integrity (via the ABA Journal):

At least five and perhaps as many as eight of the nine members of the U.S. Supreme Court are millionaires according to recently released financial disclosures, and only two hold any consumer debt.

Assets on the forms are reported in a range making it impossible to say precisely how much each justice is worth, but suffice to say, none of them are hurting financially.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg boasts the highest potential net worth at $18.1 million with Stephen Breyer a close second at $17.1 million. Both were appointed by former President Bill Clinton.

We said that Ginsburg appears to be the wealthiest justice because of two important caveats: (1) the ambiguity introduced by the reporting of asset values in ranges, as opposed to exact amounts, and (2) the exclusion of primary residences. (RBG’s actual net worth could be as low as $4.4 million and SGB’s could be as low as $5 million, excluding primary residences.)

Here are how the nine justices stack up in terms of their net-worth ranges (ordered by the top of the range):

1. Ruth Bader Ginsburg: $4.4 million to $18.1 million

Justice Ginsburg often tops the list of most affluent justices. Her late husband, Martin Ginsburg, was a renowned tax lawyer who practiced at major Biglaw firms. But note that RBG’s fortune isn’t what it once was: just three years ago, she listed assets worth as much as $45 million, and now she tops out at $18.1 million. Perhaps the Ginsburg gave money away — to family, or to charities — after Marty Ginsburg passed away.

2. Stephen G. Breyer: $5 million to $17.1 million

Justice Breyer spent most of his pre-robescent career in government or academia, so he didn’t have the chance to make Biglaw bucks. His wealth is largely due to his wife, Joanna Freda Hare, who is British aristocracy. His net worth has probably increased since 2006, when it ranged between $4.1 million to $15.4 million (but note that, because of the ranges, we can’t be sure of any increase).

(Props to Justice Ginsburg and Justice Breyer on marrying well. The conservatives haven’t quite mastered that tactic, as we’ll see below.)

3. Sonia Sotomayor: $1.7 million to $10.3 million

Her net worth figure doesn’t reflect her primary residence, a $660,000 condominium in D.C.’s trendy U Street corridor. But it does include her former home in New York, an apartment in Greenwich Village that generates rental income. That apartment is listed in the $1 million to $5 million range (but is probably closer to $1 million, meaning that the Wise Latina’s actual worth is probably well below $10 million).

4. John G. Roberts Jr.: $2.8 million to $6.6 million

The Chief Justice was able to build up his net worth due to some time in private practice, at Hogan & Hartson (now Hogan Lovells). And his high-powered wife, Jane Sullivan Roberts, is a leading legal recruiter at Major, Lindsey & Africa. Chief Justice Roberts is an avid investor, with holdings in technology and telecommunications stocks, bonds, and mutual funds. His net worth range has moved up a bit from 2006, when it clocked in at $2.2 million to $5.9 million.

5. Antonin Scalia: $1.9 million to $4.2 million

Like many a conservative, Justice Scalia is a gold bug, with investments in gold-related securities worth between $80,000 and $215,000, and a firearms fan — he accepted a gift of a $1,000 shotgun from the National Wild Turkey Federation. His total net worth is definitely higher now than it was in 2006, when it ranged between $700,000 and $1.6 million.

6. Elena Kagan: $815,000 to $2.1 million

I’d guess that Lady Kaga’s net worth is closer to the high end of the range. At the time of her Supreme Court nomination, she was already worth about $1.8 million. (Query whether she has purchased a primary residence in the interim; the value of that residence would not be reflected in her financial disclosure.)

7. Clarence Thomas: $715,000 to $1.8 million

Like fellow conservative Scalia, Thomas is a fan of gold, with investments in gold- and silver-related securities worth between $60,000 and $200,000. His net worth is up significantly since 2006, when it ranged between $150,000 and $400,000. Perhaps some of the increase is due to sales of his own bestselling memoir, My Grandfather’s Son (affiliate link), for which he received a $1.5 million advance.

8. Samuel A. Alito Jr.: $380,000 to $1.1 million (based on his 2011 report; he has sought an extension as to 2012)

Why has Justice Alito’s net worth taken a tumble? Back in 2006, he was worth between $650,000 and $1.7 million. (I suspect that some of this divergence may be due to transactions involving primary residences, which are excluded from these figures.)

9. Anthony M. Kennedy: $330,000 to $700,000

Poor Justice Kennedy. The most powerful member of the Court is also the poorest. Maybe someday he’ll write a tell-all memoir about his life as the swing justice and improve his balance sheet. On the bright side, his net worth (1) has climbed a lot since 2006, when it ranged between $65,000 and $200,000 or so, and (2) doesn’t include the value of his million-dollar home.

Congratulations to the justices on their robust net worths. They don’t earn huge sums in their current positions — $223,500 a year for Chief Justice Roberts, and $213,900 a year for each of the associate justices — and they could earn much more on the speaking circuit or at private law firms (where their outgoing law clerks get welcomed with gigantic signing bonuses).

So it’s nice to know that, despite their relatively modest pay, the justices are all right. They’ve sacrificed to serve our country, to be sure, but they can still afford to wear clothing underneath their robes.

P.S. If you are interested in the federal judiciary, including issues of judicial pay, and will be in New York City tomorrow, consider attending this event (sponsored by the Federal Bar Association).

Which stocks are SCOTUS justices picking? [ABA Journal]
Majority of Supreme Court members millionaires [Center for Public Integrity]

Earlier: Does Judge Sotomayor Need A Visit from Suze Orman?
Who Wants To Be a Millionaire? Elena Kagan — She Already Is!
Supreme Court Justices Are Just Like Us — But Richer

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