WASHINGTON (AP) — Justice Samuel Alito bowed out of roughly six dozen matters that came before the Supreme Court in the past 10 months with no explanation. Alito’s latest report of his finances clears up the mystery.
The justice and his wife, Martha Ann, inherited dozens of stocks when her father, Bobby Gene Bomgardner, died last year. Many of the cases in which Alito did not take part involved companies in which the Alitos now own shares.
The information was included in Alito’s financial disclosure for 2012, which the federal judiciary released on Wednesday. The other justices’ reports were submitted last month; Alito had requested an extension.
While justices have enormous discretion about when to step aside from cases, federal law gives judges no choice when they own even a share of a company that is a party in a case before them.
Alito’s holdings include Abbott Laboratories, AT&T Inc., Boeing Co., Chevron Corp., IBM Corp. and Verizon Communications, as well as tobacco companies, other energy firms and pharmaceutical interests.
He sat out just one case that was decided by the court, a challenge to monetary agreements between brand-name drug manufacturers and makers of generics.
In two other cases in which he participated, Alito briefly owned shares of Comcast Corp. and Royal Dutch Shell. Both were purchased and sold in December, after the court heard argument in the cases involving the companies and several months before they were decided.
In the Comcast case, Alito was part of a 5-4 majority to reject a class-action antitrust lawsuit against the cable company. In the Shell case, the justices unanimously agreed to shut down a human rights lawsuit against the oil giant.
His other recusals came in matters in which the court was asked to hear appeals and said no.
Alito reported that a death led to the acquisition of the stocks, as well as investment accounts and mineral rights in Oklahoma worth at least $700,000 and as much as $1.25 million. The name of the person who died was blacked out in the report, but an obituary posted online shows that Bomgardner died a year ago at age 81.