Justice Samuel Alito Jr. Photo: Diego M. Radzinschi / ALM

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito Jr., who until now recused himself in a pending copyright case, will participate after all, the court announced Thursday.

The case is Rimini Street v. Oracle USA, and Alito’s most recent financial disclosure indicates he owned between $15,001 and $50,000 in Oracle stock. He sold parts of his Oracle holdings in 2017, and recused himself when the court granted review last September. He apparently sold the rest of the stock in time to participate in the case. Argument is set for Jan. 14.

The online docket now states, “Justice Alito is no longer recused in this case.”

At stake in Rimini is whether the meaning of “full costs” awarded to a prevailing party in a copyright cases is limited to taxable costs or also authorizes nontaxable costs. Federal appeals courts are divided over the issue.

Alito has “unrecused” nine times in the past, according to a search of the court’s online docket.

Because of a family inheritance several years ago, Alito and his wife have had holdings in numerous corporations, unlike most other justices. He has sold several of the stocks over time, often in anticipation of an oral argument that posed a conflict of interest.

That practice has been made easier by a federal law that allows judges to shed stocks to avoid conflicts of interest without incurring capital gains taxes, an exemption that members of Congress also enjoy.

The justice also “unrecused” himself in another pending case, Merck Sharp & Dohme v. Albrecht, which will be argued Jan. 7. Alito, who owned Merck stock, belatedly realized he had a conflict in September 2017 and stepped aside, but he rejoined the case in October 2018.

 


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