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Took No Part (Vol. 8)

Explaining the unexplained recusals in Supreme Court orders

Since the justices of the Supreme Court do not explain their reasons for recusing themselves from certain cases (due to a perceived or actual conflict of interests), Fix the Court is trying to put the pieces together for you in a series we’re calling “Took No Part,” since the phrase used in Supreme Court orders noting a recusal is “Justice [X] took no part in the consideration or decision of this petition.”

This is the eighth post in a series; earlier installments are here.

Tomorrow Justice Breyer will be abstaining from hearing in Commil USA v. Cisco Systems. The presumed reason is that, according to his most recently available financial disclosure report, Breyer owned up to $50,000 in stock in Cisco. (The justice could theoretically sell the stock today and hear the case tomorrow.)

TNPs from SCOTUS’s Mar. 30 orders:

14-354: BRONX HOUSEHOLD OF FAITH V. BD. OF ED. OF CITY OF NY, ET AL.
Result: Cert denied
Recused justice: Sotomayor
Presumed reason: This case stems from a dispute between the Bronx Household of Faith, a New York church, and the city’s Board of Education over whether the church could hold its weekly worship service in a public school on Sundays. Justice Sotomayor, who sat on the Second Circuit Court of Appeals before being appointed to the Supreme Court in 2010, heard this case when she was a lower court judge.

14-8602: BENFORD, CURTIS J. V. UNITED STATES
Result: Cert denied
Recused justice: Kagan
Presumed reason: Unclear. Benford, a federal prisoner in California who was sentenced to 12 years for armed robbery, was looking to have his sentence vacated due to ineffective counsel. Since the respondent is the U.S., it’s possible that Justice Kagan worked on this case when she was the U.S. solicitor general before ascending to the high court in 2009.

14-8628: WARE, ULYSSES T. V. UNITED STATES
Result: Cert denied
Recused justice: Sotomayor
Presumed reason: Ware was convicted for securities fraud for running a pump-and-dump stock scheme in 2001-2002. The case comes from the Second Circuit, where Justice Sotomayor served before her Supreme Court appointment and where she presumably heard this case at an early stage.

Tell the Supreme Court: Dump Your Stocks!

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