Sotomayor Uses Supreme Court Staff To Hawk Her Books

United States Supreme Court associate justice Sonia Sotomayor (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
July 11, 2023

Staffers for Supreme Court justice Sonya Sotomayor have pushed colleges and libraries to purchase her books and earn profits for the justice, a practice critics have described as ethically questionable.

Sotomayor, who has earned at least $3.7 million from her memoir and children's book sales since joining the Court in 2009, has used her staff to push colleges and other institutions to buy loads of her books when she speaks at events, according to the Associated PressMembers of Congress and the executive branch are not allowed to personally benefit from their staffers' work because of government ethics rules, which the Supreme Court is not mandated to follow.

The Court said in a statement that staffers help to advise venues on book ordering for events.

"When [Sotomayor] is invited to participate in a book program, Chambers staff recommends the number of books [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 in a statement.

Records requests show staffers pushing event organizers to purchase books.

"For an event with 1,000 people and they have to have a copy of Just Ask to get into the line, 250 books is definitely not enough," aide Anh Le told workers at the Multnomah County Library ahead of a 2019 Sotomayor visit. "Families purchase multiples and people will be upset if they are unable to get in line because the book required is sold out."

Kedric Payne, a former congressional ethics official, told the AP the aides' conduct violates "one of the most basic tenets of ethics laws that protects taxpayer dollars from misuse."

Sotomayor stands out among justices in using her office to promote her books, the AP reported:

Sotomayor, whose annual salary this year is $285,400, is not alone in earning money by writing books. Such income is exempt from the court’s $30,000 restriction on outside yearly pay. But none of the justices has as forcefully leveraged publicly sponsored travel to boost book sales as has Sotomayor, according to emails and other records reviewed by the AP.

Sotomayor’s publisher, Penguin Random House, also has played a role in organizing her talks, in some cases pressing public institutions to commit to buying a specific number of copies or requesting that attendees purchase books to obtain tickets, emails show. The publisher has had several matters before the court in which Sotomayor did not recuse herself.