“Sotomayor Tops Justices For Number of Public Appearances”

Tony Mauro for NLJ:


Kwan acknowledges she’s “positive we have missed things,” estimating that the site captures 80 percent of the justices’ appearances. Hosting organizations and institutions sometimes do not publicize visits at the request of justices or for other reasons. The court’s public information office only occasionally alerts the news media about upcoming justices’ off-the-bench talks.

The large total number of appearances—282 since July 2014—fits in with the growing sense that, as individuals, justices have become more visible in recent years.

Stepping Out: Justices’ Public Appearances Since July 2014 

Sotomayor 53
Scalia 51
Ginsburg 49
Breyer 42
Alito 27
Kagan 23
Kennedy 17
Roberts 11
Thomas 9

Source: SCOTUS Map (scotusmap.com)

“It is not your imagination. Supreme Court justices are in the news more than ever,” University of California, Irvine School of law professor Richard Hasen wrote in a forthcoming article. Using data about justices’ appearances and press interviews since 1960, Hasen created a “Celebrity Index” by dividing the number of justices’ appearances by the number of years they served. Nine of the top 10 justices in the index are currently on the court.

Their increased visibility is also a function of modern technology, Hasen cautioned. Decades ago, justices could slip into town and even give a speech without being noticed. But now, Hasen said, justices are learning what police officers have come to know: “Once people have access to the Internet and a smartphone, anything spoken publicly is capable of being recorded … and eventually picked up by a wide audience.”

The frequency of justices’ public events and where they take place provides “an interesting snapshot of where the justices’ like to spend time,” Kwan said. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg favors opera festivals in the summertime, and Justice Stephen Breyer will attend “any event that will allow him to speak French,” Kwan joked.



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