Friends of the court

Supporters of President Barack Obama's health care law celebrate outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Thursday, June 28, 2012, after the court's ruling was announced. AP Photo/David Goldman)
Supporters of President Barack Obama’s health care law celebrate outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Thursday, June 28, 2012, after the court’s ruling was announced. AP Photo/David Goldman)

I’m not clear that these are actual conflicts, but I do get their point. They’re talking about the appearance of conflict — but for some reason, no one brings up Ginni Thomas and the Obamacare ruling, which is pretty low-hanging fruit:

Three Supreme Court justices didn’t recuse themselves from cases in which they held stock in companies interested in the outcomes. Nearly 90 percent of the time, they sided with these businesses that filed ‘friend of the court’ briefs, a new report said.

Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justices Stephen Breyer and Samuel Alito own shares in several publicly traded companies, according to their 2014 financial disclosure reports. From July 2014 through June 2015, seven cases before the Supreme Court featured amicus curiae ‒ or friend of the court ‒ briefs by companies in which the three justices were stockholders. These filings allow parties that will be affected by a ruling, but are not directly involved in a case, to introduce“relevant matter not already brought to [the Court’s] attention,” the Supreme Court rules read.

Justices are not obligated by law to disclose if they have relation to parties that act as amici ‒ Latin for “friends” ‒ although they have to sit out if they are involved with one of the named parties.

None of the three men recused themselves from the bench in any of those seven cases. On top of not recusing themselves, the three justices “sided with their amici 89 percent of the time, or eight out of nine times,” an analysis by Fix the Court, a non-partisan organization dedicated to increasing transparency and accountability by the Supreme Court, found (emphasis original).

In two of the cases, Nautilus v. Biosig Instruments and Obergefell v. Hodges, companies the justices invested in filed briefs for both sides. In the former, Cisco Systems, in which Breyer owns up to a $100,000 stake, filed an amicus in favor of Nautilus, while Nokia, in which Breyer owned stocks until June 2014 and Roberts owns less than a $15,000 stake, filed on behalf of Biosig. The Supreme Court unanimously found for Nautilus in the patent case.