Fix the Court has learned that rather than recuse himself from a Microsoft case to be argued later in the term, Chief Justice John Roberts has decided to sell his shares of the company’s stock, listed in his most recent financial disclosure report as valued between $250,001 and $500,000.
When we first noticed last month (thanks to Ken Jost) that Roberts was not stepping aside in the case, FTC executive director Gabe Roth wrote a letter to the Supreme Court Press Office requesting clarification – in other words, whether a stock was sold or whether an oversight was made. (Late last year, FTC uncovered a missed Roberts conflict regarding his shares in Texas Instruments stock.)
It now seems as if it was the former.
“His decision [to sell his shares],” wrote Mark Sherman of the Associated Press, “raises this question: If the chief justice can unload one of his two largest stock holdings (Time-Warner is the other), why does any justice continue to own individual companies’ stock, knowing that doing so sometimes will force him out of a case?”
That’s a question Fix the Court has been asking for months, yet with Roberts’ sale of Microsoft and Alito’s numerous stock sales in the past two years – he unloaded as much as $900,000 in securities in 2014, for example – the justices may be headed that way, albeit slowly.