Category Archives: Celebrity Justice

Why Didn’t Justice Kennedy Go to Salzburg This Summer?

Fix the Court has tracked the Justices’ summer travel, but this from their email blast caught my eye (in bold, my emphasis):

Supreme Court justices’ travel – summer 2016

Chief Justice John Roberts

No public events


Justice Anthony Kennedy

July 11: Speaking engagement; Big Sky, Montana; Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference, host

Note: Justice Kennedy did not make his customary trip to teach in Salzburg this summer (confirmed by McGeorge School of Law press office)


Justice Clarence Thomas

June 26-July 21: Teaching engagement; Nice, France; Thomas Jefferson School of Law and University of Nice School of Law, hosts


Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

July 16: Cultural engagement; Castleton, Virginia; Castleton Festival, host

Mid-July (undetermined date): Speaking engagement; Barcelona, Spain; NYU, host

July 27: Cultural engagement; Venice, Italy; host unclear

August 4: Speaking engagement; Washington, D.C.; Duke Law School and Jones Day, hosts

August 19: Speaking engagement; Santa Fe, New Mexico; State Bar of New Mexico, host

August 26: Cultural engagement; Cooperstown, New York; Glimmerglass Festival, host

September 14: Speaking engagement; McLean, Virginia; Association of Corporate Counsel, host

September 21: Speaking engagement; New York, New York; Temple Emanu-El, host


Justice Stephen Breyer

July 13-14: Speaking engagement; Sun Valley, Idaho; Sun Valley Writers’ Conference, host

September 29: Speaking engagement; Portsmouth, New Hampshire; New Hampshire Public Radio and The Music Hall, hosts


Justice Samuel Alito

July 25-27: Teaching engagement; Paris, France; Tulane University Law School, host


Justice Sonia Sotomayor

July 4: Speaking engagement; Orient, New York; Oysterponds Historical Society, host

August 14: Speaking engagement; Fairbanks, Alaska; University of Alaska Fairbanks, host

August 17: Speaking engagement; Anchorage, Alaska; Alaska Bar Association, host

September 1: Speaking engagement; Colorado Springs, Colorado; Tenth Circuit Bench and Bar, host

September 1: Speaking engagement; Denver, Colorado; Metropolitan State University of Denver, host

September 2: Speaking engagement; Boulder, Colorado; Byron R. White Center at Colorado Law School, host

September 8: Speaking engagement; Madison, Wisconsin; University of Madison-Wisconsin, host

September 17: Speaking engagement; New York, New York; Just The Beginning Foundation, host

September 22: Awards reception; Washington, D.C.; Hispanic Heritage Foundation, host


Justice Elena Kagan

August 10: Speaking engagement; Washington, D.C.; Harvard Club of Washington and Hogan Lovells, hosts

August 31: Speaking engagement; Tucson, Arizona; University of Arizona College of Law, host

September 2: Speaking engagement; Colorado Springs, Colorado; Tenth Circuit Bench and Bar, host

September 8: Speaking engagement; Cambridge, Massachusetts; Harvard Law School, host

September 15: Awards reception; Louisville, Kentucky; University of Louisville Brandeis School of Law, host

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No Information Released on Justice Scalia’s 2015 or 2016 Trips Before His Death

Adam Liptak for the NYT:

Members of the Supreme Court took scores of trips paid for by private sponsors last year, according to the financial disclosure forms of eight justices released Wednesday.

No information was provided concerning Justice Antonin Scalia, who died in February while on a hunting trip in Texas. He had been staying without charge at a hunting lodge owned by John Poindexter, a businessman whose company had recently had a matter before the Supreme Court.

Justice Scalia was an enthusiastic traveler, taking more than 250 privately funded trips from 2004 to 2014. A few weeks before he died, he visited Singapore and Hong Kong. A court spokeswoman said there would be no disclosure form detailing Justice Scalia’s travels in 2015.

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“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 (

“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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Justice Kennedy Defends Citizens United

The NLJ on Justice Kennedy’s appearance at Harvard:

Kennedy, also in response to a student’s question, said he stands by his 2010 decision in the still controversial Citizens Unitedcampaign finance case.

“In my own view, what happens with money in politics is not good,” he said. “Remember: the government of the United States stood in front our court and said it was lawful and necessary under the [McCain-Feingold] Act to ban a book written about Hillary Clinton in the prohibited period of six, three months before the election. That can’t be right.

“I wasn’t surprised The New York Times was incensed their little monopoly to affect our thinking was taken away. I was surprised how virulent their attitude was. Last time I looked, The New York Times was a corporation. This meant the Sierra Club, the chamber of commerce in a small town couldn’t take out an ad.”

Disclosure of who is financing elections is an answer, he said. “You live in this cyber age. A report can be done in 24 hours,” he said. But, he added, “that’s not working the way it should.”


Two things of note:

First, Justice Kennedy is among the Justices to rarely give these kind of public interviews, according to my Celebrity Justice study.  Maybe that is now changing.

Second, Regarding Justice Kennedy’s point about the New York Times as a (press) corporation): I deal with this question in great detail in my upcoming Plutocrats United book. It is a serious objection to campaign finance limits that needs a serious answer.

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The Supreme Court Dissent as Vanity Publishing for the Celebrity Justice?


What is not clear,” Urofsky argues, “is whether the dissent in the modern court is as powerful an agent of dialogue as it was in the days of Holmes and Brandeis, especially in terms of conversing with the larger society.” But Justices Scalia, Ginsburg and Roberts, in particular, are trying to reach out to join the larger constitutional debate, using all the mechanisms at hand — be it a Notorious R.B.G. tote bag or an eminently tweetable put-down. The frightening thing to contemplate is that these modes of dialogue may be as powerful a tool of dissent in the modern era as the Brandeis brief was in the past.

The current Supreme Court includes a number of individuals who are fully capable of expressing a forceful I, and each has the ability to communicate powerfully — as well as almost instantaneously — with millions of citizens. Whether this is a continuing part of a constitutional dialogue or merely constitutional performance art remains to be seen. History will surely let us know.

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“”Breyer v. Colbert: A comedian, a U.S. Supreme Court justice, and a missed opportunity.”

Matt Ford in the Atlantic:

Journalistic interviews with the justices are increasingly common and often good,but rarely great; New York magazine’s 2013 conversation with Antonin Scalia is adelightful exception. All nine of them speak often in public, although their audiences are usually law schools, state bar associations, judicial conferences, or similar law-related organizations. Some justices occasionally make unconventional appearances, like Sonia Sotomayor’s visits to The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and Sesame Street. But lawyers talking to lawyers is the norm.

That could change, however. UC Irvine law professor Rick Hasen provided some interesting data about their public appearances in a recent study. All of the current justices have been more public than their predecessors, save for Justice Arthur Goldberg, who spoke frequently about anti-Semitism during the 1960s. Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsburg tend to receive more press for their remarks, but Breyer actually holds the record for the most public appearances by a justice since 1964.

Are these public appearances good for the Court? Judge Richard Posner, a popular federal appellate judge in the Seventh Circuit, disapproves of what he calls the justices’ “public intellectual” activities. At the same time, he doesn’t see them as a threat to the Court’s legitimacy, since institutional support for the Court remains relatively high. Besides, he adds, few Americans can even identify individual justices. Colbert also observed before his chat with the justice that 3 percent of Americans know who Breyer is. The rest, he joked, confuse him with Mr. Burns from The Simpsons, with whom the justice shares a vague resemblance.

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“Scalia, Sotomayor most outspoken justices inside, outside court”

Richard Wolf for USA Today:

He speaks the most during oral arguments, so perhaps it’s no surprise that Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia remains the most popular among his colleagues on the outside speaking circuit as well.

Scalia took 23 trips for which he was reimbursed in 2014 to deliver speeches and lectures or teach courses, according to financial disclosure statements made public Thursday. That was more than any of his colleagues on the court.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the second most frequent questioner inside the courtroom, was the second most popular speaker outside court. She was reimbursed for 16 trips, including to Berlin and Florence, Italy. Justice Anthony Kennedy, who wrote the landmark decision declaring a nationwide right to same-sex marriage, took 13 trips.



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“Looking for clues to Supreme Court’s final rulings in Ginsburg’s good mood”

As I’ve noted, RBG is “notorious” for dropping clues about upcoming forthcoming SCOTUS rulings. Bob Barnes reads the tea leaves.

The Justice also talked about her celebrity status:

Liu showed slides of T-shirts celebrating the Notorious RBG, as the popular Tumblr account has dubbed her. Another says “You Can’t Spell Truth Without Ruth.”

 “It’s amazing,” agreed Ginsburg, who was 60 when she joined the court. “An icon at 82.”

Ginsburg said law clerks had to explain that her new nickname was based on the late rapper the Notorious B.I.G., but she noted that they were both “born and bred in Brooklyn.”

Next month the opera “Scalia/Ginsburg,” based on her relationship with her friend and antagonist Justice Antonin Scalia, will get its premiere. And she talked about an upcoming movie that will star Natalie Portman and focus on Ginsburg’s work as a crusading feminist lawyer. At its center will be a gender discrimination case she took on with her late husband, Martin Ginsburg.

Portman told the justice that the project was briefly delayed, Ginsburg said, because the actress had insisted that the director be a woman.

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“Bloomberg Law: Supreme Court Justice Celebrity (Audio)”

My interview with June Grasso (mp3):

  • Bloomberg Law: Supreme Court Justice Celebrity (Audio)

    Jun 11, 2015

    Richard Hasen, a professor at University of California Irvine School of Law, discusses the celebrity status of Supreme Court justices, who are scheduling interviews and appearances more than ever. He speaks with June Grasso on Bloomberg Radio’s “Bloomberg Law.”

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