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Chief Justice John Roberts took himself out of a patent infringement case Wednesday because of a conflict, acknowledging he made a mistake in taking part in the early stages of the appeal. Roberts did not explain why he was recusing himself from the case, which justices announced on Monday that they would review. His former law firm, Hogan & Hartson, had filed the appeal on behalf of Burlington, N.C.-based Laboratory Corp. The company was accused of infringing on the patent for a test that helps predict strokes, heart attacks and dementia. In February, the Supreme Court had asked the Bush administration to weigh in on whether the case should be argued at the Court. The administration recommended that the justices reject the appeal, so it was somewhat of a surprise when the Court agreed to take the case. The Court receives more than 8,000 cases a year but hears arguments in less than 80. Ethics experts had predicted that Roberts would have to recuse himself from some cases at the Supreme Court because of his extensive financial holdings and ties to his former law firm. According to an order released late Wednesday, a second vote was taken on hearing the patent case — without Roberts — and the justices again agreed to hear it. Arguments will be held next year. The case is Laboratory Corp. of America v. Metabolite Laboratories, 04-607. Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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