David Souter, the retired Supreme Court justice long known for his aversion to new technology, may have joined one of the latest electronic trends.
Souter received a Kindle Wireless Reading Device as a gift last year, according to his latest financial disclosure report. The Kindle, sold by Amazon, allows users to download books and read them on an electronic display.
The disclosure report requires judges and other public officials to disclose gifts they receive, with some exceptions. This one came from Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski, who is a former Souter clerk, and from Genachowski’s wife, Rachel Goslins. Estimated value: $349.10.
Souter’s side-stepping of some modern, electronic devices is widely known among Court-watchers.
“It was hard to reach him when he was in New Hampshire because Souter had a telephone and a fountain pen but no answering machine, fax, cell phone, or e-mail,” wrote New Yorker staff writer Jeffrey Toobin in his book “The Nine.” Toobin, who was explaining why Souter did not immediately find out about the death of Chief Justice William Rehnquist in 2005, added that Souter was once given a television but never plugged it in.
But Souter also has a reputation as a bookworm. “He’s got a stack of books, stacked on shelves and on tables and on the floor, that he keeps saying he wants to read. If he reads all the books he says he wants to read, that’s going to fill up his retirement,” longtime friend Bill Glahn told The Associated Press last year.
Last year, Souter moved to a new house in New Hampshire in part because his prior house wasn't structurally sound enough to hold his thousands of books, the Concord Monitor reported in August. Amazon, however, sells hundreds of thousands of e-books.
Neither Genachowski nor Souter was immediately available to comment.
The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts also released the financial disclosure reports of all nine sitting justices and retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. Some of them reported gifts, too.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor got two works of art: a sketch from New Yorker artist Tom Bachtell, valued at $750, and a watercolor of “three owls” from Nancy Gray valued at $1,125. She also reported two judicial robes, a $500 fountain pen, a $565 gift certificate to a day spa, and $500 worth of personal-shopper services.
Justice Antonin Scalia received dictionaries with a total value of $950 from Bryan Garner, the editor in chief of Black’s Law Dictionary. (The two wrote a book together, “Making Your Case: The Art of Persuading Judges.”)
Justice John Paul Stevens was given an honorary membership in the Union League Club of Chicago, valued at $840.
And Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. reported receiving two tickets to dinner and an opera ball, valued at $500, from the Washington National Opera.
Updated at 3:39 p.m.