Ginsburg has received a number of large monetary awards since joining the court in 1993, which she reported giving to charity. In 1996 she received $100,000 from the philanthropic Kaul Foundation and distributed the money among 26 charities and nonprofit organizations, including law schools, women's organizations and theatrical companies.
Justices earned $194,300 this year and will get $199,200 in 2005, modest compared with some private-sector lawyers. They are permitted to earn as much as $23,000 more through outside activities, such as teaching.
But membership on the court offers perks in addition to the prestige and power unique to the role of the high court.
Nearly all the justices accept honorary memberships to private clubs, worth thousands of dollars annually. Most are Washington-area clubs that donate the memberships.
For example, Rehnquist and Justices John Paul Stevens and Anthony M. Kennedy listed honorary memberships in the Washington Golf and Country Club, which they valued last year at $4,000. These sums appeared to be in line with annual membership fees for such clubs in the Washington area. However, a court spokesman said the rules did not require justices to disclose the initiation fees for joining such clubs, which can be far higher.
Because of inconsistencies in the way the justices reported their memberships, they were not included in the Times' tally of the value of their gifts.
Several justices also take lengthy, all-expenses-paid summer sojourns abroad where they are paid to lecture on the law. Locales have included Italy, the French Riviera and the Greek isles.
Justices Stephen G. Breyer and David H. Souter reported turning down all gifts and club memberships. Breyer has traveled on law school programs to Paris; Barcelona, Spain; and Florence, Italy. But Souter stays home and checks the box marked "NONE" for gifts on his yearly disclosure forms. Thomas also routinely passes up the overseas trips.
In calling for tighter restrictions on gifts to judges, the ABA commission was influenced by the strict no-gift rules adopted in 1995 by the House and Senate, said another panel member, Jan W. Baran, a former general counsel to the Republican National Committee.
Members of Congress and their staffs may not accept "anything of monetary value" greater than $50 at one time, or more than $100 from one person during the year. The only exceptions are gifts from family members and close personal friends.
"The House and Senate concluded it is not healthy to the integrity of their institutions to allow members to accept valuable gifts from strangers. That was the issue for us," Baran said.
"We would place a limit on the value of gifts from anyone.... To get a new set of tires from a generous car dealer would not be OK under these new rules."
New York University law professor Stephen Gillers, a legal ethicist, said the federal judiciary should adopt a similarly strict ban on judges accepting valuable gifts.
"A justice of the Supreme Court attracts friends and generosity. These gifts are being given not because he is Clarence Thomas, but because he is Justice Clarence Thomas," Gillers said.
Gillers said that, despite the comparatively lax rules, he thought most judges refused to accept valuable gifts. "I have friends who have become judges, and once they do, they will not let me pay for lunch," he said.
This year, Scalia was involved in a controversy over whether a free plane ride aboard Air Force II to go duck hunting in Louisiana with Vice President Dick Cheney amounted to a gift at a time when an energy case involving Cheney was before the court.
Scalia rejected a demand from the Sierra Club that he withdraw from the case, arguing that his trip on Air Force II did not amount to something of value. Scalia noted that he, his son and his son-in-law had bought round-trip tickets so they could return home on a commercial flight.
"In other words, none of us saved a cent by flying on the vice president's plane," Scalia said in a March 18 opinion. He subsequently voted for Cheney in the court case.
By law and tradition, the Supreme Court justices are exempted from many of the rules that govern lesser federal judges. Moreover, each of the justices is free to decide how the general ethics guidelines apply to them.
For example, when the Sierra Club filed its motion with the high court asserting that Scalia should step aside in the Cheney case, the court referred the matter to Scalia for him to decide.
Similarly, neither the ethics rules nor the court itself stands in the way of justices benefiting from the generosity of others.
Even if the ABA panel's recommendation to tighten the rules on gifts were adopted for federal judges, it would serve only as a guide for members of the Supreme Court.