Justices Around the World

Tuesday, September 5, 2006

Justice Antonin Scalia is the Supreme Court's leading opponent of drawing on foreign law to help interpret the U.S. Constitution. But that doesn't mean he has anything against foreign countries. In 2005 he was the court's top globetrotter, with 24 expense-paid trips to locales domestic and overseas, including trips to Ireland, Turkey, Australia and -- naturally -- Italy.

Law schools and legal groups paid for most of Scalia's travel, although Italian heritage organizations; media giant Time Warner Inc.; the Knights of Columbus in Baton Rouge, La.; and New York's Juilliard performing arts school, of all places, also helped out. The information was included on the justice's financial disclosure form, which was first reported by the Associated Press.

As is well known, Scalia is just one of several justices who consider traveling to deliver a speech or conduct a seminar one of the perks of their job.

Federal judges are allowed to accept expense reimbursements for travel related to teaching and international-exchange-type meetings, as long as they tell the public about it. Scalia asked for an extension this year, so his form was not submitted until August. The other eight justices filed in June.

The court's next most peripatetic member, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, took 15 paid trips in the United States and abroad. Kennedy seems to have been on the road for a substantial portion of the year -- at least 59 days, according to his 2005 disclosure form.

An advocate of citing foreign law to buttress the court's opinions, Kennedy made his annual pilgrimage to a seminar on constitutional law in Salzburg, Austria, staying there for the entire month of July -- not counting a brief side trip to Prague. His other destinations included Hong Kong and Bangkok.

Justice Stephen G. Breyer, also a member of the court's "internationalist" wing, was third, with 14 trips. He attended a conference in beautiful Bellagio, Italy, on the shores of Lake Como, and traveled to London; Melbourne, Australia; Jerusalem; and the French cities of Paris, Bordeaux and Aix-en-Provence.

Still, no current member of the court approaches the record set by the court's first chief justice, John Jay, who went to England for a whole year in 1794 to negotiate a treaty with the British crown. Not only did the fledgling court's work not suffer in his absence, he returned to discover that he had been elected governor of New York.

And several of today's justices are positive homebodies. Justices John Paul Stevens and Clarence Thomas reported no paid foreign trips in 2005; the famously solitary Justice David H. Souter reported no paid trips anywhere.

-- Charles Lane

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