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Supreme Court Judges Worth Millions

June 27, 2000

WASHINGTON (AP) _ A majority of the Supreme Court’s nine members were millionaires as the year began, led by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s family wealth estimated at between $7.4 million and $33.1 million.

Financial disclosure reports for 1999 indicated that at least five, and perhaps six, of the top court’s members held investments worth over $1 million. Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist may have joined the court’s millionaires club, but Justice Antonin Scalia sold stock during the year and dropped far below the million-dollar level.

Federal judges, members of Congress and other high-ranking government officials are required to file annual reports. The federal law requires only broad ranges of worth for assets and exempts personal property and homes.

Justices Stephen G. Breyer, Sandra Day O’Connor, John Paul Stevens and David H. Souter are millionaires, according to their reports. None came close, however, to Ginsburg and her lawyer husband, Martin, whose long list of investments included six worth between $1 million and $5 million each.

They included retirement accounts and a tax-exempt JMP Pierpont bond fund, total assets of $7.4 million to $33.1 million. Last year she reported assets from $5.9 million to $24.1 million.

O’Connor’s report reflected the most varied investment portfolio, state bonds and Treasury notes to holdings in pharmaceutical and communications companies. Her ownership of AT&T and MCI Worldcom stock, among others, has forced O’Connor to disqualify herself from several cases in recent years.

Rehnquist’s total assets were reported in a range between $525,000 to $1.3 million, up from $360,000 to $960,000 in 1998.

Scalia’s reported assets fell to $145,000 to $535,000, down from $645,000 to $1.5 million the previous year. He sold off significant amounts of shares in 1999.

Bringing up the rear were Justices Anthony M. Kennedy ($65,000 to $195,000) and Clarence Thomas ($150,000 to $410,000).

Rehnquist’s annual salary is $181,400; the eight other Supreme Court members receive $173,600.

In addition to the financial reports’ usual listings of stock holdings, some unusual entries cropped up.

Rehnquist listed as a donation to the Smithsonian Institution the robe he wore during the Senate impeachment trial of President Clinton. His report said the robe had been appraised by Sotheby’s at $30,000.

The chief justice did not respond when asked Tuesday whether he had taken a tax deduction for the donation.

Among the noninvestment income Rehnquist received in 1999 was $15,000 from ``the Lantz Office,″ his literary agent.

Thomas received an $800 commemorative jacket and traveled free by private plane when he served as grand marshal of the 1999 Daytona 500 auto race.

And O’Connor received a crystal piece and china rose _ estimated value $500 _ when honored by the National First Ladies’ Library.

The financial disclosure reports were filed by May 15, and in past years had been released within days or at most a few weeks. The six-week delay this year was attributed to new rules that allow judges to excise information from the reports they feel might compromise their security.

``I can really say the intent is to get these reports released as quickly as possible,″ said David Sellers, a spokesman for the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.

The reports for the nine justices were released Monday, the day the Supreme Court announced several important rulings as it neared the end of its 1999-2000 term.

``I guarantee you that was a coincidence,″ Sellers said. ``The release date had nothing to do with events occurring in the Supreme Court.″

The justices did excise much from their reports. Each signature was blacked out, apparently to thwart would-be forgers, as were some references to spouses and other family members.

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