Supreme Court Notebook

Justice Ginsburg evacuated from plane after engine fire reported

BOSTON -- Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is safe and unharmed after she and 178 other passengers were evacuated from a plane at Dulles International Airport Wednesday after an engine fire was reported by the pilot.

The plane, United Airlines Flight 586, was scheduled to fly to San Francisco and was still on the ground when the Ginsburg and the other passengers were directed to exit via emergency slides. They returned to the terminal and no one was seriously injured.

Lawmakers call for hearing on U.S. Supreme Court recusal bill

BOSTON -- First Monday at the U.S. Supreme Court is just around the corner, and some congressional Democrats are stepping up their push to try to make Supreme Court justices step aside in cases where they have financial or political ties.

The issue has received increased attention as the fight over the constitutionality of the federal health care law makes it way to the nation's highest Court.

In a letter that will be sent to House leaders today, several Democratic lawmakers are calling for a hearing on the Supreme Court Transparency and Disclosure Act, H.R. 862, which would apply the code to Supreme Court justices, require the justices to publicly disclose the reasoning behind any recusal from hearing a case as well as the reason for refusing to recuse after a motion is made for them to do so, and direct the Judicial Conference to establish enforcement mechanisms for the code.

The letter, obtained by the New York Times, cites "alarming reports of justices -- most notably Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito -- attending political events and using their position to fundraise for organizations. These activities would be prohibited if the justices were required to abide by the Judicial Conference Code of Conduct, which currently applies to all other federal judges."

Scalia and Thomas have come under fire recently for their relationship with conservative political financiers David and Charles Koch, and for the political activities of Thomas' wife, Virginia. Similarly Republicans have questioned whether Justice Elena Kagan should sit in on the health care challenge because she was solicitor general when the challenge to the law was first filed.

Justice Souter is no Meryl Streep

BOSTON -- Most of us have sent notes to out alma maters catching our classmates up on the things we've been up to since graduation. And guess what -- retired Supreme Court justices do too.

Retired Justice David Souter caught his Harvard classmates up by writing a note in the school's fiftieth-reunion class report, according to Harvard Magazine, beginning his statement with: "I retired when the Supreme Court rose for the summer recess in 2009, and a couple of weeks later I drove north from Washington [to New Hampshire] with no regrets about the prior 19 years or about the decision to try living a more normal life for whatever time might remain."

As for his legacy on the Court, Souter wrote: "While the quality of the workmanship may be pronounced good, bad, or indifferent..., I realized long before I submitted my resignation that whatever the verdict might turn out to be, I was the luckiest guy in the world."

Souter also recounted a brush with Hollywood royalty last year when he received an honorary degree from Harvard.

"Not only did Harvard generously award me an honorary doctorate, but it gave me the great pleasure of spending a little time with a fellow degree recipient, Meryl Streep," Souter wrote. "She happened to be somewhat ahead of me in the cohort of honorands processing into the New Yard between rows of regular degree candidates, and we were just about at the corner of Widener when one senior boy reluctantly took his eyes off the eminent actress and noticed me. He smiled with diminished voltage as he said, 'You're no Meryl Streep.'"

Ginsburg the wealthiest Supreme Court justice

BOSTON -- She may not pull in a lot of laughs during oral arguments, but Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is laughing all the way to the bank as the Court's wealthiest Supreme Court justice by a long shot, according to a new analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics.

With a net worth somewhere between $10.7 million and a whopping $45.5 million, Ginsburg easily tops the list of wealthiest justices, according to the center, which crunched the justices' financial disclosure data from 2009 (the report based on the latest 2010 filings will be unveiled in the fall). Ginsburg's holdings include a $6 million retirement nest egg.

Justice Stephen Breyer's second-place finish is attributable mainly to an array of investments (some of which spur him to recuse himself in cases involving the companies he invests in). His wealth is estimated to be between $4.6 million and $16.2 million.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts, and Justices Antonin Scalia and Elena Kagan are also millionaires, according to the analysis, though none come close to Ginsburg or even Breyer.

And while Justices Samuel Alito, Anthony Kennedy and Clarence Thomas can each claim a net worth well in the six-digit range, Justice Sonia Sotomayor cannot. In fact, she could be the only justice in the red. Her net worth is somewhere between $95,000 in debt to $50,000, according to the report.

Published: Fri, Sep 16, 2011