Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor’s Staff Encouraged Institutions to Purchase Her Books

by Lucas Garcia
Sotomayor book ethics

Sonia Sotomayor, a Supreme Court justice who overcame poverty in the Bronx to reach the highest court in the land, has become a sought-after guest lecturer for colleges and libraries. Institutions have often purchased hundreds or even thousands of copies of her books, resulting in significant financial gains for Sotomayor. However, this practice has raised ethical concerns as it involves the use of taxpayer-funded court staff for personal book ventures, a conduct prohibited in other branches of government.

Obtained through open records requests, The Big Big News has reviewed tens of thousands of pages of documents that shed light on the behind-the-scenes activities of Sotomayor and her fellow justices. The documents reveal instances where taxpayer-funded court staff have been involved in organizing speaking engagements primarily aimed at promoting book sales. Such activities are prohibited for members of Congress and the executive branch due to ethical rules that prevent the use of government resources for personal financial gain.

In Sotomayor’s case, her staff has played an active role in encouraging public institutions to purchase her memoir and children’s books. Since joining the Supreme Court in 2009, these book sales have earned her at least $3.7 million. This unique situation arises because the Supreme Court does not have a formal code of conduct, leaving the justices to establish and enforce their own rules.

The involvement of Supreme Court staffers in book promotions, fundraising events, and partisan activities poses risks to the public perception of the court as it elevates the individual justices above the institution itself. Critics argue that justices should not write books to supplement their incomes and that the promotion of personal interests over the court’s reputation is inevitable.

Sotomayor’s publisher, Penguin Random House, has also played a role in organizing her speaking engagements and has sometimes pressured public institutions to commit to purchasing specific quantities of her books. This partnership has raised questions regarding potential conflicts of interest, as Penguin Random House has had cases before the court in which Sotomayor did not recuse herself.

While Sotomayor has not directly profited from book sales beyond her multimillion-dollar advance, she continues to earn royalties, amounting to at least $400,000 since 2019, from her children’s literature. The justice’s staff has actively ensured compliance with judicial ethics guidelines, ensuring that attendees are not required to purchase books to attend events. However, records show instances where Sotomayor’s staff expressed concerns over the insufficient number of books purchased for events, emphasizing the importance of book sales.

Several universities and colleges have independently purchased large quantities of Sotomayor’s books in conjunction with hosting her events. For example, Michigan State University spent over $100,000 on copies of her memoir, “My Beloved World,” for distribution to incoming students. The books were sent to the Supreme Court, signed by Sotomayor, and then delivered to the school.

Other justices have also benefitted from similar arrangements, although the precise earnings from individual schools or events are difficult to ascertain due to reporting limitations. The justices only disclose lump-sum earnings at the end of each year.

In conclusion, the involvement of Supreme Court staff in promoting book sales for justices like Sotomayor has raised ethical concerns, particularly regarding the use of taxpayer-funded resources for personal financial gain. This practice, while not violating any formal code of conduct, poses reputational risks to the court as it may overshadow the institution itself and erode public trust.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about ethics

What is the main concern regarding Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor’s book promotion?

The main concern is the use of taxpayer-funded resources by Sotomayor’s staff to promote her books, which raises ethical questions and poses reputational risks to the Supreme Court.

More about ethics

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JaneDoe July 11, 2023 - 9:23 pm

omg this is crazy, i cant believe taxpayer money is being used for promoting books! its like they dont have rules or something, shouldnt there be a code of conduct or something?!? smh

JusticeWatcher July 11, 2023 - 11:42 pm

This article exposes a glaring loophole in the Supreme Court’s ethical framework. While other branches of government have rules against using government resources for personal gain, the lack of a formal code of conduct for the justices allows situations like this to happen. It’s definitely concerning and undermines the public’s trust in the highest court in the land.

BookLover22 July 12, 2023 - 1:22 am

So Sotomayor’s staff is basically pressuring schools and libraries to buy her books? That’s not cool, man. It raises ethical concerns and makes you question the integrity of the Supreme Court. They should have some kind of oversight to prevent this kind of stuff.


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