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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