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Ginsburg, Kavanaugh, other Supreme Court justices’ financial disclosures

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The Roberts Court tends to hear cases that have many similarities to cases that have been decided over the last few years. Richard Wolf explains why.
USA TODAY

WASHINGTON – The nation’s Supreme Court justices had a lucrative year in 2018.

Chief Justice John Roberts sold as much as $250,000 in AT&T stock, gaining at least $100,000 along the way.

Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch reaped $225,000 in royalties for his upcoming book, “A Republic, If You Can Keep It.”

Associate Justice Clarence Thomas led his colleagues in academic income, earning $28,000 for teaching at three law schools.

And new Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh had the most varied resumé of the bunch. Between teaching jobs at Harvard (last year) and George Mason University (the next three years), he found time to coach his daughters’ Blessed Sacrament basketball teams.

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Those were among the highlights of the justices’ 2018 financial disclosure forms released Thursday. The annual listing of investments, liabilities and potential conflicts of interest showed nothing unusual for the nine members of the nation’s highest court, who earn $255,300 (slightly higher for the chief justice).

The forms showed that Roberts and Associate JusticesStephen BreyerandSamuel Alito continued to own individual stocks last year, raising the chances that they would have to recuse themselves from cases involving those companies. Justices recused themselves from 31 cases in the 2017 term because of stock holdings, down from 47 cases in 2016.

All three justices have taken steps in recent years to move much of their portfolios into mutual funds, but there was less movement in that direction last year.

The public interest groupFix the Court, which advocates for increased transparency, heralded another year in which the three justices shed some stocks. They owned 40 companies at the end of 2018, down from 73 four years earlier.

“It should not take a mistake, or near-mistake, to convince a justice that he should not hold shares in a company that frequently comes before the court,” Gabe Roth, the group’s executive director, said. “Such holdings often lead to recusals, meaning the potential for a 4-4 tie, which undermines the judiciary’s ability to function properly.”

Besides Gorsuch, Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor also had book royalties last year. She earned $33,000 for two children’s books, “Turning Pages” and “The Beloved World of Sonia Sotomayor,” an offshoot of her 2013 bestseller, “My Beloved World.”

Alito, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh and Associate Justice Elena Kagan all joined Thomas in teaching law school courses for side income.

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But it was Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the court’s oldest member at 86, who led her colleagues in globetrotting to speak or participate at conferences. She took 14 trips to as far as Israel, Jordan and Italy, along with Park City, Utah, for the Sundance Film Festival’s premiere of the documentary about her life, “RBG.”

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