12:33pm PT by Eriq Gardner
Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito's Family Owned Disney Stock At Time of Key ABC Ruling
Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito has acknowledged an unintentional conflict of interest when he voted with a 5-4 majority to back the FCC in a challenge to the agency's ability to police indecency on television. Alito now says that he voted in the case despite family members holding stock in ABC owner The Walt Disney Co.
The case came before the court in 2009 with Disney's ABC unit and others challenging FCC rules as "arbitrary and capricious." As we wrote at the time, the majority opinion constrained itself on technical grounds and sent the matter back to the 2nd Circuit.
Alito now says that a check at the time for any financial conflicts turned up nothing. "“It was apparently an oversight on the part of my staff,” Alito said in an interview Tuesday. “They did a check for Disney, but apparently they did not do a check for ABC, and as a result they did not come up with this.”
Alito's mother gave his two children stock in Disney. The justice says the stock was sold last year. Alito doesn't reveal whether he would have recused himself and says it had "absolutely no effect" on his judging. Legal experts say the development is unlikely to change the law as too much has happened in the interim to unwind the ruling.
The Obama administration recently appealed a new case to the Supreme Court over the FCC'sability to fine television broadcasters for indecency.