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Chief Justice Roberts Sells Pfizer Stock, Can Participate Now

September 29, 2010
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According to the Associated Press, Chief Justice John Roberts has sold his shares of Pfizer Inc., a move that allows him to participate in two pending Supreme Court cases involving the pharmaceutical maker. Federal law requires judges to sit out cases if they own even a single share of stock in any of the parties to a lawsuit. In the past, Roberts has not taken part in cases involving Pfizer because he owned less than $15,000 of the company''s stock, according to his latest report of personal finances, which covered 2009. But when the court announced Tuesday that it had accepted an appeal from several drug makers, including Pfizer, in a dispute over prices charged public hospitals, there was no indication that Roberts would step down from hearing the case. Supreme Court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg confirmed that the chief justice sold his Pfizer shares in August. Having one justice out of a case sets up the undesirable possibility of the rest of the court dividing 4-4. In such cases, the lower court ruling stands, but the Supreme Court sets no precedent to guide lower courts. In essence, it''s a waste of time for the court to have considered the case.
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