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Chief Justice Roberts Missed Another Stock Conflict

Earlier today Chief Justice Roberts notified litigants in Life Technologies Corp. v. Promega Corp. (argued Dec. 6) that he would step away from the case due to his ownership of 1,212 shares of Thermo Fisher Scientific, which owns Life Technologies.

Fix the Court executive director Gabe Roth issued the following statement in response.

This is the third time in the last 15 months in which a justice missed a stock conflict and failed – at least initially – to recuse himself from a case as required by law. Why is it so hard for the Supreme Court to get this right?

These episodes of missed conflicts underscore our position that none of the justices should hold individual stocks. Instead, the three who do – Roberts, Breyer and Alito – should focus their investing solely on the types of financial instruments, like retirement funds and bonds, that will not further erode the public’s confidence in their impartiality.

Other recent occurrences of a justice missing a stock conflict and failing to recuse:
– Justice Breyer, Johnson Controls stock (occurred 10/14/15, reported 10/15/15). Breyer did not recuse at first, learned about the conflict the day after oral argument in FERC v. EPSA (Johnson Controls was a party on the EPSA side) and then sold his stock – or his wife did – that very day.
– Chief Justice Roberts, Texas Instruments stock (occurred 10/5/15, reported 12/18/15). Fix the Court noticed this conflict two months after cert. was denied and brought it to the chief’s attention. No further action was taken.
– Justice Alito, Disney stock (occurred 11/4/08; reported 5/31/11)

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