Random House has agreed to publish a memoir by Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, who was appointed by President Biden last year. Reportedly, Jackson will receive an advance of over a million dollars. Memoirs have become a major source of income for Supreme Court justices, notes Bloomberg News:
Jackson’s memoir, Lovely One, will tell her life’s story, from her childhood in Miami to her confirmation last year as the first Black female justice, according to her publisher, Random House.
It could also make Jackson the fourth current justice to get a book advance of at least $1 million, joining Clarence Thomas, Sonia Sotomayor and Amy Coney Barrett…Barrett reportedly secured a $2 million advance from a different imprint at Penguin Random House LLC in 2021. . . .
Sotomayor got a $1.175 million advance in 2010 and all told has collected more than $3 million for her memoir. She has also written a series of children’s books. Thomas collected $1.5 million for his 2007 memoir.
Bloomberg News observes that some members of the public may “uneasy” with such deals, but most legal ethics experts it cites see no ethical problem with justices getting paid to write books.
“I don’t see a problem with justices writing books in return for payment under ethics and recusal laws, as long as they are transparent about that and report the income as required under federal law,” said Amanda Frost, a University of Virginia School of Law professor who studies judicial ethics.
Stephen Gillers, a judicial ethics scholar at New York University Law School, said that “there is no bar to a justice writing her memoirs and getting handsomely compensated for it.”
When Justice Barrett, a Republican appointee, signed her book deal, some progressive commentators purported to be scandalized by it. No similar outrage has been expressed about Jackson getting a lucrative book deal.
For many decades, Supreme Court Justices have also made significant amounts of money from books other than memoirs, such as Justice William O. Douglas’s Almanac of Liberty, published in 1954.