The death of Antonin Scalia at a West Texas hunting lodge has drawn attention to a little-discussed perk of serving on the Supreme Court — free travel, and lots of it. As Eric Lipton reports today in The New York Times, Justice Scalia was the court’s most frequent traveler on trips paid for by private sponsors, and those trips took him to locations around the globe, from Hawaii to Hong Kong.
Lipton’s article points to a recent research paper by Rick Hasen, professor at UC Irvine School of Law and author of Election Law Blog, “Celebrity Justice: Supreme Court Edition,” in which he documents the dramatic increase in public appearances by Supreme Court justices from 1960 to 2014 — most strikingly an eight-fold increase from the 1970s to today. With many of those public appearances came travel here or there.
What caught my attention in both these articles was their reference to a site I had not seen before: SCOTUS Map. As its name suggests, this site maps the comings and goings of current and retired Supreme Court justices, showing where in the world they will be and when.
It does this by mapping the justices’ domestic and international engagements — whether they be to speak, receive an award, attend a conference, or something else. The site’s creators find these events through news releases, calendar listings, tips and other sources.
Each event is represented on the map by a pin. Round pins are for current justices and square pins are for retired justices. The color of the pin identifies the justice. Justice Scalia was identified with green pins, Sonia Sotomayor gets blue pins, Stephen Breyer gets grey pins, and so on. The map shows colored pins Click on the pins to see details for each event. Rounded pins indicate current justices (each of whom is assigned a different color), square pins indicate retired justices, and numbered pins represent multiple justices attending the same event.
If you click on any pin, you see details about the event. If the event has already taken place and there is a news report or video from it, a link is provided.
SCOTUS Map was launched in 2014 by Victoria Kwan, a 2011 graduate of Columbia Law School who currently works as a law clerk at the Anchorage, Alaska, Superior Court (according to her LinkedIn profile) and Jay Pinho, a self-described “political data journalism junkie.”
Kwan and Pinho have also created SCOTUS Search, a site that enables full-text search of Supreme Court oral argument transcripts. The site encompasses nearly 7,000 oral arguments dating back to the 1950s.