Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. Breyer was at his Caribbean vacation home late in the evening one recent Thursday when a man wielding a machete cut his way through a screen door, walked into the living room and demanded "money, money, money," according to Colin Smith, the gardener.
The thief "looked more nervous than we were," Mary-Anne Sergison-Brooke, Breyer's sister-in-law, said in an interview from her home near Oxford, England.
The encounter drew attention not only because of the prominent victim but also because of where he was spending the week, at his wife's family "cottage" in the West Indies.
These days, the Supreme Court justices spend much of their time away from Washington in the weeks when the court is not in session.
And Breyer, who speaks fluent French and is married to the daughter of a British lord, is the most frequent flier of a well-traveled group.
He made two visits each to Paris and Cambridge, England, in 2010. And there were other trips to Luxembourg and Marseilles and speaking trips to New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and half a dozen other U.S. cities and college towns. In all, he made 23 trips in addition to vacation travel, according to his financial disclosure form.
The nine justices meet as a group in Washington only about 80 times a year. They spend much of their time reading briefs or writing opinions. And like workers everywhere, they have learned they can do much of their work electronically far from the office.
During this four-week winter break, Justice Sonia Sotomayor was in Guam and Hawaii, teaching and talking about the law. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg traveled to Egypt and Tunisia with her daughter to celebrate the "Arab Spring" on a trip arranged by the State Department.
Breyer, a former Harvard Law School professor and a judge in Boston, and his wife, Joanna, a psychologist and daughter of the late Viscount Blakenham, go to Nevis in the winter where they stay in a bungalow that was purchased by her mother years ago.
A police spokesman in Nevis said Monday a "person of interest" was in custody in the robbery.