Sonia Sotomayor made ruling in Penguin Random House lawsuits despite receiving $3 million from publisher

The Scotus judge saw no conflict of interest in ruling on the firm that paid her $500,000 annually starting in 2017. She never asked for recusal.

Progressive U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor tried cases involving the publisher Penguin Random House despite her strong ties to the firm, a clear conflict of interest. Judge Sotomayor received nearly $3.6 million from Penguin Random House and its subsidiaries since 2010 but did not ask for her recusal when the publishing house was involved in a SCOTUS case. The data leading to this conclusion was compiled from the judicial transparency portal Fix The Courts.

This information, reported by the Daily Wire, comes at a time when the media is focused on the ethical oversight of the Supreme Court. The New York Times revealed last week that conservative Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas failed to declare a series of luxury trips paid for by Texas businessmen. The matter drew the attention of several Republican legislators and the Senate Judiciary Committee to propose an initiative to reform the Supreme Court's codes of ethics and oversight.

Controversial appointment

However, Judge Sonia Sotomayor also allegedly broke the SCOTUS code of ethics because of her close relationship with the publisher. Over the years, Sotomayor has become a prolific author for Penguin Random House. This has become the main source of income for the judge, who was appointed by former President Obama in 2009. When she became the first Hispanic woman to sit on the Supreme Court that year, her appointment did not come without controversy. Many saw Sotomayor as more of an activist than a judge.

Sotomayor has always been particularly sensitive to theories of racial identity and their influence on justice. In a lecture in Berkeley, Calif., years before her appointment to the Supreme Court, Sotomayor asserted that a Hispanic woman would always make a better judge than a white man. In reaction to her appointment, many described Sotomayor's profile as problematic. "In picking Sonia Sotomayor, President Obama has confirmed that identity politics matter to him more than merit. Judge Sotomayor is not one of the leading lights of the federal judiciary and would not even have been on the shortlist if she were not Hispanic," commented Ilya Shapiro, then an analyst at the CATO Institute, in 2009.

Five books with Penguin Random House and $500,000 per year

As of 2013, Sotomayor has had five books published by Penguin Random House-owned firms.

  • "Just Help! How to Build a Better World" (2022) New York: Penguin Random House. Another children's book on civic ethics.
  • "Just Ask! Be Different, Be Brave, Be You" (2019) New York: Penguin Random House. Sotomayor's second children's book, which promotes empathy, understanding and inclusion.
  • "The Beloved World of Sonia Sotomayor" (2019) New York: Penguin Random House. A young reader adaptation of Sotomayor's memoir, intended for readers ages 10 and up.
  • "Turning Pages: My Life Story" (2018) New York: Philomel Books. Sotomayor's first children's book, which narrates his love for books and reading.
  • "My Beloved World" (2013) New York: Alfred A. Knopf Inc. Sotomayor's memoir, which chronicles her life in the Bronx, her education at Princeton and Yale, and her career as a lawyer and judge.

For her first book, Sotomayor collected a $1.9 million advance from Penguin Random House in 2010 and 2012, prior to the publication of her memoirs. Shortly thereafter, in 2013, Sotomayor ruled in a case that went to the Supreme Court with her publisher as a defendant. Aaron Greenspan took Penguin Random House to court, accusing the publisher of stealing his book about the creation of Facebook. The same book, published by Doubleday, a subsidiary of PRH, would later inspire the feature film "The Social Network," directed by David Fincher. From 2017-2021, Sotomayor received $500,000 annually from the publishing corporation, the Daily Wire reported.

In 2019, Sotomayor was again involved in a case in which PRH was the defendant. Jennie Nicassio, a children's book author, accused the publisher of having copied her book "Rocky" and took the case all the way to the Supreme Court. According to the Daily Wire, on the same day that the Nicassio case dossier arrived at the Supreme Court, Sotomayor received $10,586 from PRH. In partnership with Viacom, PRH later turned the book into an animated adaptation. In February 2020, Sotomayor also did not ask for recusal when she voted not to pursue another lawsuit against Penguin Random House.