5 weeks after filing, justices' finances still not public

AP News
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Posted: Jun 24, 2015 2:08 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — Supreme Court justices' annual reports on investments, paid travel and other financial matters remain shielded from public view more than five weeks after they were filed.

For the first time since John Roberts became chief justice in 2005, the justices probably will leave town for their summer break before the reports are released.

The Administrative Office of U.S. Courts, the central repository for federal judges' disclosure forms, has offered no explanation and has yet to set a date for providing copies of the financial disclosures to reporters and the public.

Good-government groups have complained that the courts make it harder than other branches to obtain information about judges' finances.

"Six months into 2015, hundreds of legislators and government officials have already provided this important disclosure. There's no good reason why the nine Supreme Court justices can't do so as well," said Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics.

The reports for lawmakers and top executive branch officials are available online and free of charge, in most cases. Judges' disclosures come in paper copies only, at a charge of 10 cents a page.

Court officials have invoked security concerns to defend the different handling of judges' finances. Requests are reviewed and judges are notified of requests before documents are turned over. In one example cited by the courts, the reviews have allowed court officials to black out information about where a judge's spouse works.

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The justices' reports will show where they spent part of last summer, among other things. Teaching gigs in Alpine resorts and European capitals are a staple of the justices' summer travel.

Justices Anthony Kennedy and Antonin Scalia are carrying on that tradition in 2015. Kennedy will return to Salzburg, Austria, where he has taught for many years in the summer program for the University of the Pacific's McGeorge School of Law.

Scalia is heading to Rome to take part in Loyola University Chicago School of Law's summer program.

At least two justices have plans to visit Asia.

Roberts has accepted an invitation from his Japanese counterpart to visit Tokyo. While in Japan, Roberts also will give a public lecture at the University of Tokyo regarding the role of the chief justice, and teach a class at Kyoto University.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said she and her daughter, Jane, a Columbia University law professor, will visit South Korea and Vietnam at the invitation of the U.S. State Department.

Justices can accept roughly $25,000 in additional income for teaching and speaking, beyond their salary of $246,800 a year. The chief justice earns $258,100 a year.

The law schools generally pay $10,000 to $20,000 to land a justice.

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By the time they leave town, the justices have to fill their case calendar for the fall. This year, they are about 10 cases short if the court wants to schedule two arguments a day for each of the 16 argument days in October, November and December.

Roberts has said that he prefers an even heavier schedule in the early months of the term. Front-loading the court's calendar allows for more arguments in the fall and more time for writing opinions in the spring.

The justices will meet twice more in private to consider adding cases. The first of those is a regularly scheduled meeting on Thursday, after they issue opinions in some of the seven remaining cases.

They will gather once more after the term's final opinions are out to tie up loose ends. Then it's "Ciao," ''Auf Wiedersehen," or "Sayonara" until they meet again on Sept. 28.

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Associated Press writer Sam Hananel contributed to this report.