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Scandal at The Bench: Supreme Court Disclosures Reveal More Luxury Travel Funded by Private Entities



Supreme Court's conservative justices
Supreme Court disclosures have unveiled a greater extent of lavish travel arrangements facilitated by private interests for justices.

Previously undisclosed details have emerged regarding Supreme Court justices indulging in opulent travel arrangements courtesy of private entities that later had cases before the court.

As reported by Open Secrets, personal financial disclosures of the justices reveal that most sitting justices have been reimbursed for international travel while serving on the bench. Between 2021 and 2022, eight out of the nine justices reported a total of 34 trips funded by various private groups, including universities, legal organizations, and ideologically focused entities.

According to judiciary policy, Supreme Court justices are required to disclose any travel-related reimbursements exceeding $415 from a single source in their annual personal financial disclosures. While they must provide information on the travel locations, dates, and nature of expenses, the total cost of travel is not required to be disclosed. Additionally, the rules do not apply to personal hospitality, such as food, lodging, or entertainment received from individuals.

Under the guise of educational pursuits, many justices justified their travel reimbursements by citing teaching and lecturing commitments. Astonishingly, a substantial number of justices reported reimbursements from universities across the country, purportedly for their participation in educational programs. Leading the pack, the University of Notre Dame emerged as the primary benefactor, providing travel reimbursements for Justices Samuel Alito, Barrett, Brett Kavanaugh, and Clarence Thomas, totaling an astounding six different trips.

Of particular note, Barrett, who also serves as an adjunct professor at the university, enjoyed the perks of three separate trips to Notre Dame’s campus near South Bend, Indiana. Furthermore, Kavanaugh’s voyage to Rome in September 2022 was facilitated by Notre Dame’s Kellogg Institute for International Studies, an event distinct from Barrett’s own Rome expedition, enabling his participation in a seminar focusing on constitutionalism and the rule of law.

Multiple justices also had their travel expenses covered by other universities. The National Security Institute at George Mason University reimbursed Justices Neil Gorsuch, who is an adjunct professor at the university, and Elena Kagan for travel related to a study abroad program they taught in Reykjavik, Iceland, in June 2021. Gorsuch also taught at another study-abroad program organized by the institute in Padua, Italy, in June 2022.

Further examination of the justices’ travel reimbursements reveals connections to ideological organizations. Barrett’s report for 2022 shows that she received a travel reimbursement from the conservative Catholic public interest law firm Thomas More Society. The group covered her food and lodging expenses when she traveled to Richmond, Virginia, to deliver an address at a dinner held in conjunction with the Red Mass, an annual religious service honoring those in the legal profession.

Gorsuch also received a reimbursement from an ideological group, the Federalist Society, a conservative and libertarian legal organization. The group covered Gorsuch’s transportation and accommodations for his speech at the annual meeting of the Federalist Society’s Florida chapter in February 2022. The event, held at Walt Disney World’s Yacht Club, was closed to the news media. However, personal financial disclosures have proven to be incomplete in exposing all the free travel received by the justices, as recent reports from ProPublica have revealed.

ProPublica’s groundbreaking investigations exposed the previously hidden truth about undisclosed luxury travel gifts received by both Alito and Thomas from billionaire benefactors.

For an astonishing two decades, Justice Thomas has enjoyed private yacht and jet trips to extravagant destinations, such as Indonesia, all courtesy of Dallas businessman and billionaire Harlan Crow. Meanwhile, in a glaring conflict of interest, Justice Alito was treated to a lavish private fishing excursion in Alaska back in July 2008, generously funded by hedge-fund billionaire Paul Singer. Astonishingly, Singer had cases appear before the Supreme Court a staggering ten times, raising serious concerns about the impartiality and integrity of the nation’s highest judicial body.

Both justices contend that these trips were mere acts of hospitality from their wealthy acquaintances, blurring the lines between personal relationships and potential impropriety.


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