Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. sold as much as $500,000 in Microsoft stock last year just 10 days before the U.S. Supreme Court granted review in the still-pending class-action case Microsoft v. Baker.
The sale enabled Roberts to participate in the case instead of recusing.
Roberts reported the stock sale in his 2016 financial disclosure form, released with the reports of seven other justices on Thursday. For the first time, the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts provided journalists with the forms aggregated onto a thumb drive, in addition to paper copies. No form was required from Justice Antonin Scalia or his estate. Scalia died Feb. 13, 2016.
When the court, including Roberts, granted review in Microsoft on Jan. 15, 2016, it was assumed that Roberts had sold the stock, but the just-released form confirms it.
The stock sale is one of numerous morsels of information provided by the forms:
â–º Justice Samuel Alito Jr., who owned numerous traded stocks after a family inheritance, has continued to shed some but not all of those stocks. He sold $15,000 or less in stock in Johnson Controls in August 2016, but has retained stock in Abbott Laboratories and ConocoPhillips, among others. Fix the Court, a group that advocates for more transparency from the Supreme Court, criticized Alito in 2015 for owning Johnson Controls stock.
â–º Fix the Court on Thursday calculated that Alito, Roberts and Stephen Breyer, the justices who own the most stocks, sold more than $1 million in shares combined in 2016. In 2015, the figure was $1.4 million. “I am encouraged by the justices’ continued stock sell-off and call on them to accelerate the practice, especially at a time when public servants’ integrity in Washington is at a premium,” said the group’s executive director, Gabe Roth, who has urged the justices to divest stocks and invest in mutual funds or other instruments that would cause fewer recusals.
â–º Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s 2016 book “My Own Words” is doing well. The collection of her speeches and writings reaped $204,534 in royalties for the justice, according to her report.
â–º Justices continue to supplement their incomes with legal teaching gigs. Tulane University Law School paid Alito $17,255 for participating in its summer teaching program in Paris and Berlin. Harvard Law School paid Justice Elena Kagan, its former dean, $15,000 for teaching there. The George Washington University Law School paid Justice Clarence Thomas $10,000.
â–º Breyer was the most-traveled justice in 2016, reporting 20 reimbursed trips to locales ranging from Paris (twice) to Sun Valley, Idaho. Several of Breyer’s trips were described as “book events” promoting his 2015 book “The Court and the World,” from which he reaped $44,942 in royalties. Ginsburg listed 12 trips, Sonia Sotomayor 11, Kagan 6, and Anthony Kennedy 5. Oddly, Roberts reported no reimbursed trips in 2016.
â–º Alito disclosed that he received a $3,000 gift—apparently a bronze cast of a hand—from the Italian art company Bottega Mortet.