Kansas University's School of Law footed the bill for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia's 11-day trip to Istanbul last year, according to the justice's financial disclosure report released Tuesday.
KU officials defended the move - orchestrated while Steve McAllister led the law school - and maintained it was not connected to another issue raised in 2004 about Scalia's ties to McAllister.
"To the extent there was any concerns there, I don't think they applied here," McAllister said. "This was just him coming over (to Turkey) to teach about constitutional law."
Scalia, the U.S. Supreme Court's most frequent traveler in 2005, took 24 expense-paid trips last year, including the one to Istanbul on KU's dime.
With help from two other institutions, KU organizes a study abroad program in Istanbul. This year, the program invited and paid for the hotel and airfare of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to teach a course, KU spokesman Todd Cohen said.
Cohen said the practice is typical and benefits students. And, he said, the school's ties to the highest court speak highly about KU's program. He said the justices are paid using private funds.
"We want to attract top students to this," Cohen said. "We want students to learn from this. What better way than to learn from a U.S. Supreme Court justice?"
KU students pay about $4,950 for the Istanbul program, not including airfare. They take courses on comparative constitutional law, international tax law, international mediation and arbitration, and other topics. Faculty on the 2006 lineup included McAllister, Ginsburg, a Georgetown University professor, and others from KU and the other sponsoring institutions: South Texas College of Law and William Mitchell College of Law.
The justices teach for two of the program's four weeks.
Gail Agrawal, KU's new law dean, said it's not at all unusual that those making the commitment to teach have their expenses paid. She said it's an honor to have the justices participate.
"I think it's perfectly consistent with KU's mission," she said.
Scalia was reimbursed $14,129 for his 2005 trip, with airfare making up more than $6,000 of the bill. Cohen said Tuesday he did not know the exact costs for Ginsburg's trip, but said they likely were similar.
"It'd be nice if they did it pro bono, but that's not the arrangement," he said.
McAllister said he thought Scalia stayed at a Hilton hotel while in Istanbul.
"It's a decent hotel," he said. "I don't think it's among the world's most elegant."
He said the goal is to find lodging that meets standards and is secure.
"We weren't trying to enrich him," he said. "We were just trying to make sure he'd be comfortable."
McAllister led KU's law school from 2000 until August 2005, when he resigned to return to teaching.
In 2004, he defended his actions in another incident involving Scalia. Media reports brought to light an incident in 2001 when Scalia went on a hunting trip arranged by McAllister within weeks of hearing two cases in which McAllister was the lead attorney.
In one case, McAllister and then-Kansas Atty. Gen. Carla Stovall defended a state law to confine sex offenders after their prison terms. In the second case, McAllister led the state's defense of a prison program for treating sex criminals.
"I didn't think that was a big deal either," McAllister said of the hunting trip issue.
As for the Istanbul trip, McAllister said there are no pending cases that would pose any conflicts.
The financial disclosures showed that Scalia also is one of at least six millionaires among the nine justices, with assets of $1.1 million to $2.6 million.
The bulk of his holdings are in a trust valued at $500,000 to $1 million, a money market fund with $250,000 to $500,000, and a retirement fund from his days as a law professor that is worth $100,000 to $250,000.
Scalia supplemented his $203,000 annual court salary with $21,900 for part-time teaching and a book review in the conservative journal First Things.
Like other federal officials, the justices each year report their assets, including gifts and earnings, but in broad ranges of thousands of dollars instead of exact amounts. In addition, the justices are required to provide some details of reimbursements they receive for travel.
Justice Anthony M. Kennedy took 15 expense-paid trips in 2005, and Justice Stephen Breyer made 14.
The other millionaires on the court are Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, David Souter and John Paul Stevens. Justice Samuel Alito might be in that category as well, with assets of $665,000 to $1.7 million.
Justices are paid $203,000 each year. The chief justice's salary is $212,100.