The Volokh Conspiracy

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Book Advances for the Justices in 2023

Gorsuch ($250,000), Kavanaugh ($340,000), Jackson ($893,750).


One of my proposals for bilateral judicial reform would be to cap advances on book royalties for the Justices. I've written at length about the $1.2 million book advance for Justice Barrett in 2021 (here, here, and here). Now, the annual disclosures reveal the book deals for other Justices in 2023.

Yesterday, Axios reported that Justice Kavanaugh is writing a memoir. This was a well-timed scoop, given that today, Kavanaugh disclosed that his advance is $340,000. About a third of what ACB earned. Yikes. But still more than the other Trump nominee. Justice Gorsuch received an advance of $250,000 for his latest book with Janie Nitze, Over Ruled.

Justice Jackson, whose book deal was announced a few months ago, disclosed an advance of $893,750. I don't know if this is the full amount, or part of the advance. In any event, still a drop from Barrett peak in 2021. Maybe the market dried up for books about Justices?

For what it's worth, Justice Jackson received free tickets from Beyonce, but Justice Kavanaugh had to pay for his own Taylor Swift tickets.

Each year, Gorsuch receives a few hundred dollars in royalties from Princeton University Press for his 2006 book on assisted suicide and euthanasia. But as best as I can tell, Gorsuch has not received any royalties from his first book, A Republic, beyond the $250,000 advance. It's possible that all future royalties are assigned to his co-authors. Or, I think it is more likely that he hasn't earned back the $250,000 advance from 2021. In any event, Harper Collins has given Justice Gorsuch another $250,000 advance, which he may not earn back. People and groups are unlikely to buy his old book when the new book is on the market.

As I wrote in Bilateral Judicial Reform, I am skeptical any of these Justices will earn back these prodigious advances. These are interest free loans that are perfectly valid under the rules.

There are many headlines about Justice Thomas receiving valuable gifts. The insinuation is that he is profiting off his position. Much the same can be said about a Justice who writes a book. These are not normal business decisions. The Justices will only be able to make back these advances if they hold many events, where groups will feel at least some pressure to buy the books. And there are all sorts of conflicts there. I think the publishers are unlikely to ever get back the advance, but see some prestige by having a Justice on their label, which helps with other aspects of business.