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Justices ruled on their own financial interests

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The federal recusal statute says that judges may not sit if they or their family members have even one share of stock in one of the parties involved in the case. However, the rules vary on the state level. In a review of state high court disclosure requirements, The Center for Public Integrity found 14 cases in which judges participated in cases in which they or their spouses held stock in one of the parties.

B

Alabama

Justice Jacquelyn Stuart

Stock: Regions Financial Corp. (RF)
Estimated value*: Not disclosed but she reported earning less than $1,000 in annual dividends.
Case: A securities-fraud lawsuit brought by a group of shareholders against Regions Financial Corp.
Stock: 3M Co. (MMM)
Estimated value*: Not disclosed but she reported earning less than $1,000 in annual dividends.
Case: A change-of-venue petition related to a class-action lawsuit brought by Alabama landowners who claimed that 3M and other companies had polluted their property with dangerous chemicals.
Judge's response: Stuart declined to comment about her stock ownership but pointed to Alabama’s Code of Conduct, which states that de minimis levels of stock ownership do not jeopardize a judge's impartiality.
E

California

Justice Kathryn Werdegar

Stock: Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC)
Estimated value*: Between $100,001 and $1 million.
Case: Denied an appeal to a couple who accused Wells Fargo of predatory lending and unlawful foreclosure.
Judge's response: “The justice regrets the error and thanks you for bringing it to her attention,” said court spokesman Cathal Conneely. “The Supreme Court is reexamining its internal conflict of interest procedures to prevent similar errors in the future.”
U

Maine

Justice Warren Silver

Stock: Idexx Labratories, Inc. (IDXX), held by his wife
Estimated value*: About $28,300, based on market price of 320 shares.
Case: A zoning case involving Idexx in a land dispute with its neighbors over quarrying by another neighbor.
Judge's response: “At the time that I made the ruling, I didn’t even realize she owned the Idexx stock,” Silver told the Center. “If I had realized it at the time, I would have recused myself.”
S

Massachusetts

Chief Justice Roderick Ireland

Stock: Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC), held by his wife
Estimated value*: Not disclosed but more than $1,000.
Case: A case about banks' documentation of mortgages, a decision that voided some of the bank’s foreclosures.
Judge's response: Court spokeswoman Jennifer Donahue said on behalf of the justice that recusal is only required when a judge has a more than de minimis economic interest that could be substantially affected by the outcome of a proceeding.

Justice Robert Cordy

Stock: Bank of America (BAC)
Estimated value*: Not disclosed but more than $1,000. "Several hundred shares," according to court spokeswoman Jennifer Donahue.
Case: A case accusing the bank of using unfair and deceptive business practices as a trustee on the leasing of land used as a dump.
Judge's response: Court spokeswoman Jennifer Donahue said on his behalf that he owned several hundred shares of Bank of America stock, which she said did not require his recusal under the court's standards.
c

Nebraska

Justice Lindsey Miller-Lerman

Stock: Deutsche Bank (DB)
Estimated value*: Not disclosed but at least $1,000.
Case: A case about about the sale of a foreclosed home.
Stock: United Parcel Service (UPS)
Estimated value*: Not disclosed but at least $1,000.
Case: A case about determining the benefits for a part-time worker injured while working at United Parcel Service.
Stock: Union Pacific Corp. (UNP)
Estimated value*: Not disclosed but at least $1,000.
Case: A mother of a 13 year old killed by a train sued the railroad company over a waiver she signed after the death.
Judge's response: She did not return calls for comment.
a

North Carolina

Justice Robert Edmunds

Stock: Abbott Laboratories (ABT)
Estimated value*: Not disclosed but at least $10,000.
Case: The case hinged on whether lawyers from out of state, representing a mother whose baby died, should have been allowed to try the case against a hospital and Abbott, which made the baby formula her infant drank.
Stock: Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC)
Estimated value*: Not disclosed but at least $10,000.
Case: The court’s ruling upheld a lower court’s decision about proving who held a loan in a foreclosure case, which found that Wells Fargo did not need to present an original note to show it held a mortgage.
Stock: Duke Energy Corp. (DUK)
Estimated value*: Not disclosed but at least $10,000.
Case: A case on a rate hike sought by the energy company.
Judge's response: He said his ownership stake was not significant and did not affect his decisions.
v

Wisconsin

Justice Annette Ziegler

Stock: Merck & Co. Inc. (MRK) and Johnson & Johnson (JNJ)
Estimated value*: More than $50,000 in each company.
Case: The state accused pharmaceutical manufacturers of charging inflated drug prices to the state’s Medicaid system.
Judge's response: She did not return calls for comment.

Justice Ann Walsh Bradley

Stock: Nestle (NSRGY)
Estimated value*: At least $5,000.
Case: The company challenged a tax assessment on a powdered infant formula manufacturing plant.
Judge's response: She declined to comment.

* Many states do not require values to be reported but have a minimum threshold for when judges must report a financial stake in a company.