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Tipsheet

It Turns Out Liberal Justices Are Caught Up in Their Own Ethics Concerns

Erin Schaff/The New York Times via AP, Pool

Democrats and their allies in the mainstream media have been absolutely apoplectic over what they are ethics concerns involving financial disclosures with conservative justices on the U.S. Supreme Court. While these attacks are nothing new, especially when it comes to the crusade against Justice Clarence Thomas, it's noticeably ratcheted up to become nearly a daily obsession. And it's also worth mentioning that Justice Sonia Sotomayor is herself making news. 

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According to a Wednesday report from Luke Rosiak at The Daily Wire, the Obama-appointed justice failed to recuse herself from cases involving Penguin Random House, despite how she was paid $3 million by the publisher for her books. 

She received payments in 2010 and 2012, but has since heard cases involving the publisher. Sotomayor didn't recuse herself, though, despite how then-Justice Stephen Breyer did:

In 2013, Sotomayor voted in a decision for whether the court should hear a case against the publisher called Aaron Greenspan v. Random House, despite then-fellow Justice Stephen Breyer recusing after also receiving money from the publisher. Greenspan was a Harvard classmate of Mark Zuckerberg’s who wrote a book about the founding of Facebook and contended that Random House rejected his book proposal and then awarded a deal to another author who copied his book and eventually turned it into the movie The Social Network.

...

On February 24, 2020, the Supreme Court voted not to hear the case, denying the “writ of certiorari” and meaning that the case would remain where it left off — with a circuit court having found in the publisher’s favor. Sotomayor’s next check, coming in May of that year, was her largest ever from the parent company, at $82,807.

The Supreme Court does not reveal how individual justices vote when it comes to “cert,” but it does note when they recuse, which Sotomayor did not. Her decision not to recuse is particularly notable because Breyer again recused. Breyer received payments from Penguin Random House or Knopf each year, which he seemingly viewed as a conflict, even though he received only a tenth of the amount — $340,000 during the same time period — as Sotomayor (Breyer’s wife also wrote a book for the company).

The Penguin Random House money dwarfed the pay that Sotomayor received from the court and made up all of her reported outside earned income, with the exception of $6,000 in payments from groups — some of which related to her book — and a $5,000 “option fee,” which typically relates to books, according to the disclosures. The publisher also footed the bill for her to speak to various groups. Breyer, by contrast, would typically have those groups foot the bill.

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Rosiak also mentions other concerns raised by Fix The Court, described as "a nonpartisan group that has long watchdogged Supreme Court finances and which compiled some of the financial disclosures used in The Daily Wire’s analysis." Last June, the group pointed out that Sotomayor failed to disclose six trips in 2016 funded by outside groups, before later correcting her disclosures.

And yes, the group does raise concerns about conservative justices as well, which makes it all the more noteworthy that they would call out the mainstream media for their obsessive reporting on such justices:

Fix The Court has criticized the conservative justices on financial disclosures more than anyone has, but even it said that media had overreacted with stories about right-leaning justices this month, calling an issue with Justice Neil Gorsuch selling a house misleading and saying breathless findings about Chief Justice John Roberts’ wife working as a legal recruiter “much ado about nothing.”

The report in question about Justice Neil Gorsuch comes from POLITICO, which has certainly gone after Republican-appointed justices and other conservative figures as of late. Insider was responsible for the report on Chief Justice John Roberts' wife. ProPublica has now twice gone after Thomas, last month as well as on Thursday, as Katie highlighted

The most recent report, about Justice Thomas' grandnephew attending private school, includes an update that reads "This story has been updated to reflect that Mark Paoletta, a longtime friend of Clarence Thomas who has also served as Ginni Thomas’ lawyer, acknowledged Harlan Crow’s tuition payments."

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As that report now reads:

[After this story was published, Mark Paoletta, a longtime friend of Clarence Thomas who has also served as Ginni Thomas’ lawyer, released a statement. Paoletta confirmed that Crow paid for Martin’s tuition at both Randolph-Macon Academy and Hidden Lake, saying Crow paid for one year at each. He did not give a total amount but, based on the tuition rates at the time, the two years would amount to roughly $100,000.

Paoletta said that Thomas did not have to report the payments because Martin was not his “dependent child” as defined in the disclosure law. He criticized ProPublica for reporting on this and said “the Thomases and the Crows are kind, generous, and loving people who tried to help this young man.”]

Paoletta also slammed the report in several tweets and retweets on Thursday, including in a pinned tweet. 

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"Sotomayor" has been trending on Twitter in light of such revelations from Rosiak. Republican communicator Matt Whitlock made reference to POLITICO as he tweeted Rosiak's story. As of Thursday afternoon, it does not appear that POLITICO has covered Sotomayor and her connection to Penguin, nor has ProPublica or Insider. In 2013, however, Insider did publish a profile piece, "Sonia Sotomayor Shows She's The Least Guarded Supreme Court Justice."


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