U.S. Supreme Court

Supreme Court justices recused themselves 180 times in most recent term

  • Print

U.S. Supreme Court justices recused themselves 180 times during the term that ended in June, according to the transparency group Fix the Court.

Most of the recusals—176—were at the certiorari stage, according to a Fix the Court press release. The vast majority of the recusals—117—were because of “previous work” by Justice Elena Kagan (she was solicitor general) and Justice Sonia Sotomayor (she was a federal appeals court judge).

Thirty-three of the recusals were due to stock ownership in companies held by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Stephen G. Breyer and Samuel Al Alito Jr., the press release says. Two of those recusals, in decided cases, didn’t affect the outcome. The other 31 recusals were in cert-stage cases.

The findings highlight “how the breadth of stock ownership by these three justices may be affecting the docket,” according to Fix the Court. “It is possible that any number of the 31 petitions with stock-based conflicts were missing a key fourth vote at the cert. stage, leaving decisions on issues ranging from patents to false claims to class actions in the hands of lower court judges.”

Fifteen recusals related to family ties of Justice Stephen G. Breyer, whose brother is a federal judge, and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., whose sister is a partner at K&L Gates.

See also:

ABAJournal.com: “If confirmed, Merrick Garland might be the wealthiest Supreme Court justice”

Give us feedback, share a story tip or update, or report an error.