POLITICO reviewed all of the annual disclosure forms from current and former justices during Roberts’ 18-year tenure as chief justice. The nearly 200 reports, while often sparse, list dozens of gifts — an assortment of artwork, historical keepsakes and other oddities that offer a glimpse of the justices’ tastes and personalities. Sonia Sotomayor appears to like modern art. Neil Gorsuch is an outdoorsman. Antonin Scalia was an avid hunter. And Roberts enjoys the opera.
Here are some of the largest and most unusual gifts that justices have disclosed. (This non-exhaustive list includes only tangible gifts; it does not include the more extensive reimbursements that justices often receive for transportation, lodging and meals.)
got opera tickets
Since joining the court in 2005, the chief justice has reported very few gifts. In fact, other than a couple “honorary memberships” at local clubs that he disclosed early in his tenure, the only items Roberts has ever reported receiving as gifts are two tickets to a “dinner and opera ball” at the Washington National Opera on June 5, 2009. He listed the value of the tickets as $500.
got a bust of Frederick Douglass
Thomas is under fire for not disclosing various benefits he received from Crow, the Texas real estate mogul and GOP megadonor who took Thomas on luxury trips, bought property from him and paid private school tuition for Thomas’ great-nephew. But Thomas did report one gift from Crow in 2015. Crow gave Thomas a bronze bust of Frederick Douglass worth $6,484.12.
A year earlier, when Thomas received an award from his alma mater, Yale Law School, he reported that the school gave him a $530 “stained glass medallion resting in an oak base with a brass plaque.”
got a sculpture of a hand
Liberal critics of Alito, the author of the opinion overturning Roe v. Wade, have accused him of ruling with an iron fist. But Alito’s desk is apparently adorned with something else: a bronze hand. He reported receiving a “bronze cast of hand” in 2016. The value is listed as $3,000, and the source is listed as Bottega Mortet, a goldsmith in Rome, Italy.
got fINE art
Sotomayor was confirmed to the high court in 2009, and in her first three years on the bench, she disclosed more gifts — and provided more details about them — than any of her colleagues. Since 2012, in contrast, she has reported almost no gifts. Some of the items she listed in her early years sound worthy of a modern art gallery. In 2011, she received a “translucent composite print,” apparently by the California photographer Robert Weingarten, worth $6,000. In 2010, she received an “Einstein sculpture,” by the artist Robert Berks, worth $1,500. And in 2009, she received a watercolor painting of three owls, worth $1,125.
got a signed book by Felix Frankfurter
In her 13 years on the court, Kagan has disclosed just one gift: a signed first edition of The Public and Its Government by former Justice Felix Frankfurter in 2015. It was given to her by the University of Chicago Law School, and she reported the value as $499.94.
got cowboy boots, a fishing rod and a painting
Gorsuch, who hails from Colorado, has been celebrated for bringing a Western sensibility to a court dominated by East Coasters. And two of the gifts he’s disclosed in his five years on the bench evoke the great outdoors. He received cowboy boots valued at $699.99 from a Texas retailer in connection with a Texas Supreme Court Historical Society dinner, and he received a $500 fishing rod from the owner of a Colorado bait-and-tackle shop.
Gorsuch also disclosed a $1,000 watercolor painting, though unlike Sotomayor’s three owls, Gorsuch didn’t detail its subject matter.
The three newest justices
have disclosed no gifts
Brett Kavanaugh (who was confirmed in 2018), Amy Coney Barrett (who was confirmed in 2020) and Ketanji Brown Jackson (who was confirmed in 2022) each have not reported any gifts during their time on the court so far. None of the justices’ disclosure forms for 2022 have been released yet; those are expected next month.
got guns and dictionaries
Before his death in 2016, Scalia was well known for loving two things: hunting and textualism. So it’s fitting, perhaps, that the conservative icon reported receiving two firearms and $950 worth of dictionaries during his final years on the court. The firearms — a shotgun valued at $1,000 and a rifle valued at $600 — were given to him by the National Wild Turkey Federation. The dictionaries came from noted legal lexicographer Bryan Garner, who co-authored a book with Scalia.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg
got a $1 million prize, which she reported donating to charity
By far the largest gift that any justice has disclosed over the past two decades is a $1 million prize that Ginsburg won in 2019, a year before she died. The Berggruen Institute, a California think tank founded by billionaire investor Nicolas Berggruen, awarded Ginsburg its annual prize for culture and philosophy. Ginsburg reported giving the money to unspecified charities.
Ginsburg also reported other valuable gifts that did not go to charity. In 2018, she amended a disclosure form to reflect her receipt of an opera costume, valued at $4,500, from her non-singing performance in the Washington National Opera’s production of “The Daughter of the Regiment.” Ginsburg also once reported a gift bag worth $2,500 that she received in connection with being named one of Glamour magazine’s “Women of the Year.”