Thursday, April 21, 2005

Justices return to the case

High Court Justices Un-Recuse Themselves

If you click on the link above, you'll be transported to an article that says Justices Stephen Breyer and Sandra Day O'Connor recused themselves in the case of Merck KgaA v. Integra Life Sciences I, Ltd. They did so because they were both stockholders in Merck.
However, the company that the Justices own stock in is Merck, not Merck KgaA. They both apparently have the same founder, but KgaA works worldwide except for North America, where Merck has control. Merck, the article says is a wholly independent company. Because of this notifiation, sent by Merck's lawyer, Mr. Rosenkranz, the Justices returned to the bench.

I don't know if I should be troubled by this, yet I am. After all, it doesn't look as though the Justices are going to be trying to protect their own interests. However, I think that it looks... fishy, I guess, that they would return to a case that they said they'd not participate in.

The part that troubles me the most, I think, is that most people who look at this case aren't going to know that the two Merck companies are independent of each other, and that if they know that the Justices own stock in Merck, then the appearance of improper persuasion for the better of their own interests shines through.

Perhaps in this instance, it would have been best if the Justices had kept away once the stepped away...

1 comment:

Bookworm said...

"Looks fishy" is a good standard for recusal. My memory is a bit vague, but I'm pretty sure that, in the federal system, the judges have to bow to an "appearance of impropriety" standard. That is, even if they are not in an actual conflict, if it looks conflicted, they should get out. This is done to preserve the integrity of the legal system so that ordinary citizens -- people like you and me -- are not disturbed by the sense that, however inchoate, something is wrong.