Sometimes, when one of the justices recuses his or herself from a case, the reason is obvious. For example, Justices Kagan and Sotomayor have recused themselves in recent years due to prior involvement in the case while it was still churning around in the lower courts.
Justice Alito's absences, however, were much more mysterious. The Associated Press counts his recusals as "roughly six dozen." He only sat out of one actual decision, however: the pay-for-delay drug manufacturing case. Thanks to his recently-filed disclosures, we now know that investments were the reason for the recusals.
According to the AP, his holdings include Abbott Laboratories, AT&T Inc., Boeing Co., Chevron Corp., IBM Corp., Verizon Communications, tobacco companies, energy firms and other pharmaceutical interests. That's quite the diverse portfolio, and begs the question: is it a good idea to for Supreme Court justices to own stock? We all are, after all, planning for retirement, right?
On the other hand, we're not required to recuse ourselves from our job whenever we have a financial stake in a company that is appearing before us.
This is not meant to criticize Justice Alito by the way. He inherited the stocks, and other investments, after his wife's father passed.
One other interesting note from his disclosures: he purchased stock in Comcast Corp. and Royal Dutch Shell last December, selling it that same month. The court heard cases involving each company last term, with oral arguments made before the stock purchase and opinions handed down after the sale. Both companies were victorious in their cases.
Other interesting disclosures, courtesy of the ABA Journal: Justice Sotomayor made about $1.9 million last year, and more than $3 million total, off of her memoir, My Beloved World. Justice Ginsburg received a $2,500 gift bag for being absolutely fabulous (she was named as a Glamour Magazine Woman of the Year).
Justice Scalia, however, got a something a little more exciting: a $1,000 shotgun from the National Wild Turkey Foundation.