Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, a radical member of the court, declined to recuse herself from multiple copyright infringement cases involving book publisher Penguin Random House despite receiving millions of dollars from the company for her books, according to records.
Sotomayor received a $1.2 million advance from Knopf Doubleday Group, a subsidiary of Penguin Random House, in 2010, and two advance payments totaling $1.9 million in 2012.
In 2013, she voted in a decision involving a case against the publisher. Sotomayor began receiving payments from Penguin Random House in 2017, and these payments totaled more than $500,000.
She received a check for $10,586 from the publisher on the same day that children’s author Jennie Nicassio petitioned the Supreme Court to hear her lawsuit against Penguin Random House. Nicassio alleged that the book publisher had copied her book by selling one that was nearly identical.
On February 24, 2020, the Supreme Court voted not to hear the case, and Sotomayor received a check for $82,807 in May of that year. Sotomayor’s earnings from Penguin Random House were more than her pay from the court and made up all of her reported outside earned income, with the exception of $6,000 in payments from groups and a $5,000 option fee.
Lawyers for Nicassio argued that her case was worthy of being taken up by the Supreme Court because the Third Circuit used a rule that was “radically different” from the one used by other circuits. Penguin Random House and Viacom, which was also sued by Nicassio, did not file any motion in response to the petition. The case could set a precedent that could open the floodgates to many other copyright infringement suits against publishers.
The Supreme Court did not return a request for comment.
In a recent op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, the editorial board claimed that the campaign against the Supreme Court is part of an ongoing effort by Democrats to attack the conservative majority and preserve their own political power.
According to the article, reporters from various publications have been searching for alleged ethics violations or conflicts of interest involving conservative Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch. However, the writers argue that these accusations are thin and have already been debunked.
The op-ed goes on to suggest that the real motivation behind the push for ethical reforms is the fact that conservatives now hold a majority on the SCOTUS. In recent years, the SCOTUS has made a number of decisions that have been seen as victories for conservatives, such as sending abortion policy back to the states and expanding protections for the Bill of Rights.
The editorial board accuses Democrats of hypocrisy, pointing out that liberal Justices have also had oversights in their financial disclosures in the past without facing the same level of scrutiny. The writers argue that Democrats only care about ethics when it suits their political agenda and their proposals to impose an outside monitor to enforce ethical standards on the SCOTUS is unconstitutional and a breach of the separation of powers. The scheme would make the SCOTUS answerable to an agent of Congress and would ultimately be used to attack unpopular Justices and intimidate the Supreme Court.
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OPINION: This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion.