Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor’s Staff Pushed Sales of Her Books

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor has leveraged her public speaking engagements to boost sales of her books, raising ethics concerns about whether she is using her position for personal gain.

Sotomayor’s staff has often prodded public institutions that have hosted the justice to buy her memoir or children’s books, works that have earned her at least $3.7 million since she joined the court in 2009.

In one instance, Sotomayor’s staff pressured officials at Portland Community College and the Multnomah County Library to buy more copies of her book “Just Ask!” after only 28 copies were pre-ordered for a free event at the school.

The Supreme Court says that Sotomayor’s staff was simply trying to ensure that there would be enough books for attendees who wanted to meet the justice after the event. However, some ethics experts say that the pressure to buy books creates the appearance of impropriety.

“It’s a very fine line,” said Kedric Payne, a former deputy chief counsel at the Office of Congressional Ethics. “On the one hand, you don’t want to discourage people from attending events with the justices. But on the other hand, you don’t want to create the appearance that the justices are using their position to enrich themselves.”

Sotomayor is not the only justice who has written books. However, her efforts to promote her books have been more aggressive than those of her colleagues. In addition to pressuring public institutions to buy books, Sotomayor’s publisher has also played a role in organizing her talks, in some cases requesting that attendees purchase books to obtain tickets.

The Supreme Court says that Sotomayor has recused herself from cases in which her publisher has been a party. However, the fact that she has a close relationship with the publisher raises concerns about whether she can be impartial in cases involving the book industry.

“The appearance of impropriety is just as important as the reality of impropriety,” said J. Michael Luttig, a former federal appeals court judge who has pushed for the justices to adopt a formal code of conduct. “The justices need to be more mindful of the fact that their actions can be seen as self-serving.”

The ethics concerns surrounding Sotomayor’s book promotion efforts are just one example of the challenges facing the Supreme Court in the 21st century. As the court has become more politicized, the justices have come under increasing scrutiny for their actions.

In order to maintain public trust, the justices need to be more transparent about their activities and avoid even the appearance of impropriety.