After taking stock, Breyer’s selling stocks

The markets are down, but Justice Stephen Breyer is selling off his stocks.

In an effort to avoid recusing himself from considering cases before the Supreme Court, Breyer is unloading the majority of the shares he owns in dozens of companies, reports Law360. (Sub. req’d)

Last year, several justices had to recuse themselves from some high-profile cases because they held investments in some of the companies before the Court. In a couple of cases, the recusals led to an even court split – resulting in the lower court’s decision being upheld.

Breyer holds more stock than any other justice, with shares in 40 companies including  Procter & Gamble, Wal-Mart, Cisco Systems and Exelon. A Supreme Court spokesperson confirmed to Law360 that Breyer would sell most of the stocks.

The Court’s other largest stockholders – Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. and Justice Samuel Alito, Jr. – have been slowly selling off stocks since their confirmation to the Court. But they still own stock in a number of companies, resulting in some recusals. In fact, Alito’s recusal from last year’s high-profile punitive damages case Exxon Shipping Co. v. Baker led to a partial Court deadlock. While the Court cut the punitive damages award against Exxon for its role in the Exxon Valdez oil spill, the Court tied 4-4 on the issue of whether the company could be held liable for punitive damages as the corporation that employed allegedly liable managers.

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