Who's The Richest Supreme Court Justice?

The United States Supreme Court is enshrined in the U.S. Constitution as the judicial power of the country. It's meant to function as the last resort for justice (as the highest court in the land), a check on other two branches of government, the key protector of civil rights, and a primary way to ensure popular fads don't erode fundamental American rights and values. In short, it's extremely important to the nation's democratic system. However, Supreme Court justices have few formal limitations on their income avenues, and federal ethics laws require justices to self-disclose only those assets they personally deem to be a conflict of interest, which has allowed less-than-clear financial disclosures from many of the current and past justices.

For example, in recent years, several Supreme Court justices have been found to have murky ethics when it comes to monetary gifts and financial disclosures. This financial influence calls into question both the motivations and decisions brought down by the court, some of which have favored friends and colleagues who bestowed these expensive gifts. These ethical issues undermine the court itself while also having major consequences for the American people.

The nine current Supreme Court justices are estimated to be worth, in total, between $24 and $68 million; however, they're not all worth the same amount. Six of the Supreme Court justices count as multimillionaires, making them richer than 90% of Americans. This said, even the "poorest" of the justices still earn an annual salary of $298,500, or 544% more than the average American whose median annual salary in 2024, per the Bureau of Labor Statistics, is $46,310.

How much Supreme Court justices earn in salary

The nine Supreme Court justices are paid a uniform (and publicly known) amount of money that's decided on by Congress. As of 2024, the chief justice of the Supreme Court makes $312,200 a year, while associate justices earn an income of $298,500, not including their sizable benefits and pension plans. Additionally, the justices have received annual pay increases every year since 2013 (with the exception of 2019). Also notable is that 2013 was the last year that the chief justice of the Supreme Court's annual salary was the same as the speaker of the House.

While Supreme Court justices don't have many limitations on their earned income outside of their position as a justice, there are still a few. For instance, a Supreme Court justice can't earn more than $30,000 from outside services that are connected to their profession as judge. This typically applies to teaching positions since many justice's teach and/or work with universities. Justices are also not allowed to be paid a fee for speaking engagements. However, they can have their transportation to and from the event (including airfare, hotel, and ground transportation) as well as all of their meals paid for. While Supreme Court justices are supposed to include any amount over $390 that they get from a private entity or university on their annual financial disclosures, their disclosures have not always included exact dollar amounts.

Chief Justice John Roberts is the richest

It is difficult to fully assess just how much "extra" income Supreme Court justices make to know who's the richest of the group, given both the vagueness of some of their financial disclosures and when you consider how much hasn't been reported. This said, due to the way in which investments are publicly reported, Chief Justice John Roberts earns anywhere from $10 million to $30 million from his investments every year. This, on top of his elevated pay as the chief justice of the court, makes him the top earner among all of the justices.

However, in 2023, ProPublica discovered that Justice Clarence Thomas had been on the receiving end of over 20 years of expensive gifts and monetary contributions that had gone largely unreported and undisclosed. From gifts to trips to private school tuition for family members, these undisclosed contributions added considerably more income than the justice's federal salary. In 2022, President Biden signed the Courthouse Ethics and Transparency Act into law, which increases the disclosure requirements for federal judges and makes them available to the public.

However, not all of the Supreme Court justices have been as deceptive with their incomes. For example, one of the most common ways justices have earned more money has been through book deals. Justices Amy Coney Barrett, Neil Gorscuch, Clarence Thomas, Sonia Sotomayor, and Ketanji Brown Jackson have all reported earnings and/or advances from publishers for their books. Many also have investments in index and/or mutual funds in addition to pensions and retirement accounts, which follow accepted best practices for judges since they have no personal way to influence or control the investments and can therefore avoid conflicts of interest.