Staff of Justice Sotomayor Urges Academic Institutions and Libraries to Purchase Her Publications

by Ethan Kim
Sotomayor book ethics

Justice Sonia Sotomayor, a notable figure in the U.S. Supreme Court, has become a sought-after speaker for academic institutions and libraries. Her journey from a humble background in the Bronx to the pinnacle of the American legal system has made her an inspirational figure. This prominence has also led to significant sales of her authored books to these institutions.

Personnel working for Justice Sotomayor have actively encouraged educational and public institutions hosting her to purchase her memoir and children’s books. Since her Supreme Court appointment in 2009, these sales have generated at least $3.7 million for her. The Big Big News, through over 100 open records requests, uncovered these transactions, which are not widely known. The comprehensive documentation provides an uncommon glimpse into the activities of Sotomayor and her colleagues beyond their judicial roles.

The records show that court staff, funded by taxpayers, have been involved in tasks related to Sotomayor’s book projects, which is typically not allowed for employees in other government sectors. However, the Supreme Court operates without a formal code of conduct, giving justices more freedom in their activities compared to other government officials.

Kedric Payne, formerly with the Office of Congressional Ethics and now with the Campaign Legal Center, notes that this lack of oversight at the Supreme Court leads to ethical concerns, especially when taxpayer resources are used for personal benefit.

FILE – Justice Sonia Sotomayor is seen holding her children’s book, “Turning Pages: My Life Story,” at the Library of Congress National Book Festival in Washington, D.C., on September 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen, File)

Supreme Court staff have been intricately involved in planning speaking events for Sotomayor, aiming to promote her books – a practice prohibited for Congress members and executive branch officials. The Supreme Court, in a statement, explained that when Sotomayor participates in book-related programs, staff recommendations on book quantities are based on expected audience size, to avoid disappointing attendees.

The AP investigation reveals that the justices’ activities, including book sales and fundraising efforts at schools, cross ideological lines. In 2019, as Sotomayor promoted her new children’s book, “Just Ask!,” an event in Portland, Oregon, required significant effort and resources from local institutions. A staff email expressed concern over insufficient book copies for a large audience, highlighting the expectation of book purchases for meeting Sotomayor post-event.

At other universities, like UC Davis and the University of Wisconsin, Sotomayor’s staff suggested book signings linked to her visits. Notably, Michigan State University bought over $100,000 worth of her memoir, “My Beloved World,” for distribution to new students, a process involving Supreme Court staff and Sotomayor’s personal involvement in signing.

Sotomayor, with an annual salary of $285,400, is not the only justice earning from book deals, but her use of public appearances for boosting sales is notable. Former federal appeals court judge J. Michael Luttig criticizes this practice, fearing it may harm the Supreme Court’s reputation by prioritizing individual justices over the institution.

Penguin Random House, Sotomayor’s publisher, also had a role in these events, often stipulating book purchase requirements for attendees. The Supreme Court admitted an “inadvertent omission” in failing to flag Penguin’s involvement in several cases before Sotomayor, though these cases were not reviewed by the Court.

A person close to Sotomayor, requesting anonymity, claimed that she has not profited beyond her initial advance for her memoir. However, she continues to receive royalties from her children’s books, including “Just Ask!,” which was a focal point of her 2019 promotional tour.

The involvement of schools like Michigan State, which invested heavily in Sotomayor’s books, and other institutions, indicates a broader trend of substantial book purchases in anticipation of her visits. The situation at the Supreme Court, with justices benefiting financially from such arrangements and lacking a formal conduct code, raises ethical and procedural questions about the use of public resources and the potential impact on the Court’s integrity.

Stay updated with the Supreme Court news at https://bigbignews.net/us-supreme-court.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Sotomayor book ethics

What is the controversy surrounding Justice Sonia Sotomayor and her book sales?

Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s staff has been encouraging colleges and libraries to purchase her books during her speaking engagements. This has raised ethical concerns since it involves using taxpayer-funded court staff for promoting personal financial interests, a practice typically prohibited in other branches of government.

How much has Justice Sotomayor earned from her book sales?

Since her appointment to the Supreme Court in 2009, Justice Sotomayor has earned at least $3.7 million from the sales of her books, including her memoir and children’s books.

Why are these actions by Justice Sotomayor’s staff considered controversial?

The actions are controversial because they involve the use of taxpayer-funded staff for personal gain, something that is generally not allowed for employees in other government sectors. The Supreme Court’s lack of a formal code of conduct allows justices more leeway than other government officials, but this situation raises ethical questions.

What role does the Supreme Court play in regulating such activities?

The Supreme Court does not have a formal code of conduct, so justices largely set and enforce their own rules. The Court stated that it works with justices and their staff to ensure compliance with judicial ethics guidance for such activities.

Has Justice Sotomayor been the only justice to benefit from book sales?

No, other justices have also profited from book sales. However, Justice Sotomayor’s use of publicly sponsored travel and speaking engagements to boost book sales is notably aggressive compared to her peers.

What is the stance of Justice Sotomayor’s publisher in this matter?

Penguin Random House, Sotomayor’s publisher, has been actively involved in organizing her talks and sometimes pressed public institutions for specific book purchase commitments. They have had several matters before the court, though Sotomayor did not recuse herself due to an “inadvertent omission.”

What is the public response to this issue?

The situation has raised concerns about the use of public resources for personal gain and the potential impact on the integrity of the Supreme Court. Critics argue that such practices risk damaging the Court’s public standing by prioritizing individual justices over the institution.

More about Sotomayor book ethics

  • [Justice Sotomayor’s Book Promotion Ethics]
  • [Supreme Court Conduct Code Concerns]
  • [Sotomayor’s Book Sales Revenue]
  • [Supreme Court Staff Involvement in Book Sales]
  • [Public Reaction to Supreme Court Book Ethics]
  • [Penguin Random House’s Role in Sotomayor’s Book Promotions]

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Alice Green November 14, 2023 - 1:54 am

Its interesting to see how the lack of a formal code of conduct in the Supreme court leads to these situations, they should probably look into that.

Mark Johnson November 14, 2023 - 10:42 am

the ethical concerns are real here. Shouldn’t there be stricter rules for this stuff in the supreme court? seems like a big oversight…

Tom Harris November 14, 2023 - 12:07 pm

I read about other justices making money from books too, but Sotomayor’s case seems more intense cause of the staff involvement and all.

Jenny Smith November 14, 2023 - 12:32 pm

Wow, I can’t beleive how much Sotomayor made from those book sales, That’s a lot of money for a supreme court justice, right?


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