Judge Samuel Alito’s failure to recuse himself from a case involving Vanguard, a company in which Alito has invested between $390,000 to $975,000 of his personal fortune, has become a source of “debate and disagreement.” Yesterday, he argued that his failure to recuse was merely an oversight on his part, but if given the opportunity to go back in time and do things differently, he would.
ALITO: And is a case that came up in 2002, 12 years after I took the bench, and I acknowledged that if I had to do it over again, there are things that I would have done differently. And it’s not because I violated any ethical standard, but it’s because when this case first came before me, I did not focus on the issue of recusal and apply my own personal standard, which is to go beyond what the code of conduct for judges requires.
Today, Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) gave Alito the opportunity to uphold this pledge and declare that any such conflict of interest would not happen again. But Alito would not promise to recuse himself from a case involving Vanguard if he were to be confirmed for a seat on the Supreme Court:
FEINGOLD: Is there any question, if you still have holdings in Vanguard and a case comes before the Supreme Court, that you should recuse yourself?
ALITO: Well, under the Code of Judicial Conduct, I don’t believe that I am required to recuse myself in Vanguard cases. And I would strictly comply with the ethical obligations that apply to a Supreme Court justice.
Alito’s answer today that he will not recuse himself in the future because it is not required by the code of judicial conduct is in direct contrast to his pledge yesterday to “go beyond what the code of conduct requires.” If Alito wants to put this controversy to rest, why won’t he simply pledge never to rule on a case involving Vanguard in the future?