The Volokh Conspiracy

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Just Ketanji Brown Jackson Lands Major Book Deal for Her Memoir

It is becoming a pattern for Supreme Court justices to make significant amounts of money by publishing books.


Greg Stohr of Bloomberg reports that Random House has agreed to publish a memoir by Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, the newest Supreme Court justice. As Stohr notes, this has become something of a trend on the Court.

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. Although Random House didn't disclose the terms of Jackson's deal, 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.

Stohr notes some might be "uneasy" with this sort of arrangement, but most of the legal ethics experts he consults do not see an ethical problem with justices getting paid to write books (and they are right).

"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 signed her book deal, some progressive commentators were nonetheless scandalized. We will see whether they are as upset by Justice Jackson getting similar treatment.