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Justice Alito's Recusal Demonstrates Why Blind Trusts Are Needed

Justice Samuel Alito has recused himself from today’s morning session at the Supreme Court.

Though he did not give a reason for his recusal, it seems as if it stems from his stock ownership in Johnson Controls, a power provider that in 2011 acquired EnergyConnect, the former of which is a named party in today’s Federal Energy Regulatory Commission v. Electric Power Supply Association case. (See this list of parties to the case.)

Fix the Court has called on the justices to give reasons for their recusals in the interest of transparency. Currently, justices note when they step aside from cases but leave it up to the public to figure out the reason(s) why.

Fix the Court executive director Gabe Roth released the following statement on the recusal:

It is deeply unsettling that Justice Alito’s ownership of a few thousand dollars in energy stock could yield a 4-4 tie in case about regulating the many-billion-dollar energy market. Alito’s recusal underscores the need for justices to get rid of their shares in individual companies or instead place their shares into blind trusts for the duration of their tenure.

Today’s Supreme Court action was not a high school soccer match but a suit that goes to the very core of federalism and energy demand. As such, the country’s top nine jurists – all nine of them – should have weighed in on the issue and not conceded that it will likely end in a draw.

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