Report: Books by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor Pushed on Colleges, Libraries by Her Staff

Books written by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor were purchased in their hundreds, sometimes thousands, by colleges and various libraries across the nation over the years, all as a result of gentle prodding by her staff after she completed a speaking engagement, a report Tuesday claims.

AP claims Sotomayor’s taxpayer-funded staff often prodded public institutions that hosted the justice to act on their recommendation and buy her memoir or children’s books, works that reportedly earned her at least $3.7 million since she joined the court in 2009.

Details of those events and claimed book sales that came in their wake, largely out of public view, were obtained by The Associated Press through more than 100 open records requests to public institutions.

Supreme Court Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor holds her new children’s book “Just Help!” on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2022. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

The resulting tens of thousands of pages of documents shone a light on Sotomayor and her fellow justices beyond their official duties, the outlet sets out.

When Sotomayor spoke at Michigan State University in 2018, by way of example, the school spent $110,000 for 11,000 signed copies of “My Beloved World,” her memoir, to give to incoming freshmen. Books were first shipped to the Supreme Court, where they were signed by Sotomayor, the AP reported.

According to AP, the documents reveal other repeated examples of taxpayer-funded court staff performing tasks for the justice’s book ventures, which workers in other branches of government are barred from doing.

But when it comes to promoting her literary career, Sotomayor is free to do what other government officials cannot because the Supreme Court does not have a formal code of conduct, leaving the nine justices to largely write and enforce their own rules.

Therein lies the claimed conflict of interest for Sotomayor, one of the Court’s most strident liberals.

Kedric Payne, a former deputy chief counsel at the Office of Congressional Ethics and current general counsel for the Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan government watchdog group in Washington, pointed to the fundamental problem that represented. He said:

This is one of the most basic tenets of ethics laws that protects taxpayer dollars from misuse.
The problem at the Supreme Court is there’s no one there to say whether this is wrong.

The AP report further alleges Supreme Court staffers have been deeply involved in organizing speaking engagements intended to drive sales of the books.

That is conduct prohibited for members of Congress and the executive branch, who are barred under ethics rules from using government resources, including staff, for personal financial gain.

Lower federal court judges are also instructed to not “lend the prestige of the judicial office to advance” their “private interests.”

In a statement, the Supreme Court told AP it works with the justices and their staff to ensure they are “complying with judicial ethics guidance for such visits.”

Supreme Court Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor talks about her children’s book, “Turning Pages: My Life Story”, during the Library of Congress National Book Festival in Washington, Saturday, Sept. 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

“When (Sotomayor) is invited to participate in a book program, Chambers staff recommends the number of books (for an organization to order) based on the size of the audience so as not to disappoint attendees who may anticipate books being available at an event,” the court said.

Read the AP story in full here

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