We estimate that the wealthiest Supreme Court Justice (Roberts) has an investment portfolio worth 400 times that of the least wealthy justice (Kavanaugh). In total, the nine justices hold approximately $49 million in assets, and all employ unique investment styles.
Judges are rich. So what?
It’s unsurprising that the members of the highest court in the US are wealthy. Since court decisions that affect over 330 million citizens fall into their hands, however, access to their investment positions becomes quite valuable: this is a rare look into their financial predispositions and outlooks. It also creates context. We can then understand what industries and companies—some of which may be involved in high profile court cases—are seen as good investments by the justices.
Total Investment Valuation
Chief Justice John Roberts holds the most wealth, with investments estimated at $16.5 million, followed by Justice Stephen Breyer, with $11.8 million worth of assets. Justice Neil Gorsuch sits in third place, with $5.4 million.
The remaining five justices disclose an investment valuation between $1 million and $5 million with the exception of Justice Kavanaugh, who has the smallest portfolio at $40,000.
How Assets are Held
Six out of the nine justices are majority invested through mutual funds and exchange-traded funds (ETFs). Breaking down each justice’s allocations further by investment type (mutual fund, stock, bond, cash, real assets, and other) reveals even more:
- Justices Roberts, Coney Barret, Breyer, Gorsuch, Alito, and Kagan invest primarily through mutual funds and ETFs. Thomas, Kavanaugh, and Sotomayor use these vehicles less frequently with 23%, 19% and 14% in mutual funds and ETFs, respectively.
- Justices Sotomayor, Kagan, Coney Barrett, Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh seem to avoid investing in individual stocks as a whole. Thomas owns a greater percentage of stocks in individual companies, 38%, than other justices while Alito, Breyer, and Roberts allocate between 12% and 14% of their total investments in stocks.
- Only four justices own bonds and of these Alito and Breyer own a small amount relative to total investments, around 1% and 5%, respectively. Gorsuch and Thomas are 24% and 16% bond-allocated respectively, and are therefore more exposed to inflation risk but less exposed to stock market volatility.
- Five of the nine justices own properties that receive rental income, but only Sotomayor’s real assets are of significant value (75% of her total investments). The remaining justices hold only 1% to 5% of their portfolio in real assets.
- Justice Kavanaugh holds about 80% of his investments in cash, followed by Roberts at 19% and Gorsuch at 13%.
- Generally, investments of the “other” category consist of prepaid 529 education plans, life insurance, and pension-based retirement plans.
Stock Ownership Stands Out
Only four of the justices—Roberts, Breyer, Thomas, and Alito—hold individual stocks alongside mutual funds and ETFs. While this gives them a more-concentrated and less-costly portfolio, there is an inevitable trade-off: stock ownership exposes them to potential direct conflicts of interest. In 2016, Chief Justice John Roberts failed to recuse himself in Life Technologies Corp. v. Promega Corp., despite investing in Thermo Fisher Scientific, the parent company of Life Technologies. Roberts eventually recused himself, but only after this failure was reported.
Similarly, Justice Thomas holds stock only in private companies, Ginger, LTD., Partnership and Liberty Consulting, Inc., which have less-comprehensive reporting requirements and obligations for transparency than publicly-traded companies.
Because asset values are reported only in bracket amounts, we calculated investment assets and liabilities using the median value for each bracket. Note that these estimates do not include personal residences, which are not reported on financial disclosures, as assets.