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Hundreds join petition to cancel Amy Coney Barrett's $2M book deal with Penguin Random House

'Barrett is free to say as she wishes, but Penguin Random House must decide whether to fund her position at the expense of human rights,' the petition reads
UPDATED OCT 28, 2022
More than 450 people from the book publishing industry have condemned Justice Amy Coney Barrett's million-dollar book deal (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)
More than 450 people from the book publishing industry have condemned Justice Amy Coney Barrett's million-dollar book deal (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

A petition opposing Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett's forthcoming book had been signed by hundreds of "members of the writing, publishing, and broader literary community" as of Oct 27. The book is about how judges deal with their emotions during court proceedings.

Signers of the petition on behalf of the "literary community" include editors, authors, and publishers of Penguin Random House, which signed a $2 million book deal with Barret in 2021 Just before the presidential election, Barrett, 49, won Senate approval to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. According to the petitioners, Barrett's stance on the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v Wade violated parent company Bertelsmann's code of conduct. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which recognizes the right to abortion, is followed and supported by this ruling. "This is not just a book that we disagree with, and we are not calling for censorship," the petition states. "Many of us work daily with books we find disagreeable to our personal politics. Rather, this is a case where a corporation has privately funded the destruction of human rights with obscene profits."


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Supreme Court nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on the third day of her Supreme Court confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill on October 14, 2020 in Washington, DC. Barrett was nominated by President Donald Trump to fill the vacancy left by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg who passed away in September.
Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett signed a $2 million book deal with Random Penguin House (Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images)

The central idea of Barrett's book is the discussion that judges should not let their emotions influence their judgments. The petition asserts that this assumption conflicts with Barrett's decision that Roe v Wade should be overturned. "Yet it seems this is exactly what Coney Barrett has done, inflicting her own religious and moral agenda upon all Americans while appropriating the rhetoric of even-handedness - and Penguin Random House has agreed to pay her a sum of $2 million to do it," it says. The petition rejects Barrett's rhetoric, but also points out that "it is imperative that publishers uphold their dedication to freedom of speech with a duty of care." "We recognize that harm is done to a democracy not only in the form of censorship but also in the form of assault on inalienable human rights," it continues.

Justices Stephen Breyer and Neil Gorsuch have also published books on legal and political topics, making Barrett not the only Supreme Court justice to have done so. While Justice Sonia Sotomayor received $1.175 million for her memoir, Justice Clarence Thomas got $1.5 million for his. Charles Geyh, a professor at Indiana University's Maurer School of Law who specializes in judicial ethics, told Bloomberg that while federal law does not prohibit judges from receiving money for writing books, such a large advance raises appearance concerns. "Justice Barrett may be confident that the book project will not detract from her focus on her judicial duties, and she may well be right," Geyh said. "But from the perspective of the average American who is grinding out a living at 40K a year, the optics of a judge - who is paid $250,000 in tax dollars to do the people's business as a justice -- moonlighting for $2 million on a book deal, are problematic."

Supreme Court Justice nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett speaks as she is sworn in during the Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing for Supreme Court Justice in the Hart Senate Office Building on October 12, 2020 in Washington, DC. With less than a month until the presidential election, President Donald Trump tapped Amy Coney Barrett to be his third Supreme Court nominee in just four years. If confirmed, Barrett would replace the late Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
There is no law that prevents Supreme Court justices from signing huge book deals according to Charles Geyh (Shawn Thew-Pool/Getty Images)

Stephen Gillers, an expert in judicial ethics from the New York University Law School, said he doesn't see anything wrong with the agreement. “The fact of the deal and the amount of the advance by themselves raise no judicial ethics problem, although she will have to recuse herself in cases in which the publisher is a party,” he said according to Daily Mail.