Alito No Longer Recused From Aereo Case

The conservative Supreme Court justice will join the rest of the bench next week in reviewing the right to stream broadcast TV online.

National Journal
Dustin Volz
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Dustin Volz
April 16, 2014, 2:05 p.m.

Su­preme Court Justice Samuel Alito is no longer re­cus­ing him­self from an im­port­ant case re­view­ing the right to stream tele­vi­sion pro­grams on­line, the Court an­nounced Monday.

The de­cision came without ex­plan­a­tion. Alito has his­tor­ic­ally re­cused him­self from pre­lim­in­ary or­ders the Court has is­sued con­cern­ing the case, ABC v. Aereo, pre­sum­ably be­cause he held stock in Walt Dis­ney Co. The move may sig­nal that Alito has elim­in­ated any fin­an­cial con­flicts of in­terest he pre­vi­ously pos­sessed.

This is not the first time fin­an­cial hold­ings have been an is­sue for Alito. The con­ser­vat­ive justice is­sued a rare apo­logy in 2011 for presid­ing over a case re­view­ing ex­plet­ives on tele­vi­sion that in­volved ABC, which is owned by Dis­ney. At the time Alito called the de­cision to hear that case “a mis­take,” though he ul­ti­mately voted with the ma­jor­ity against ABC and oth­er net­works.

Aereo uses clusters of tiny an­ten­nas to al­low cus­tom­ers to watch and re­cord broad­cast TV on their com­puters, mo­bile devices, and In­ter­net-powered TVs for a monthly fee. Tele­vi­sion broad­casters say Aereo is steal­ing their con­tent, but the video site claims it’s just mak­ing it easi­er to ac­cess over-the-air tele­vi­sion. 

The Su­preme Court will hear ar­gu­ments next Tues­day. By re­join­ing the case, Alito has elim­in­ated the pos­sib­il­ity of a 4-4 tie, which would have al­lowed a lower court de­cision sid­ing with Aereo to stand. 

The Court also an­nounced Monday that Alito was no longer re­cused from POM Won­der­ful v. Cola-Cola, a case also be­ing heard next week ex­amin­ing truth­ful la­beling re­quire­ments of fruit juices.

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