A class action lawsuit launched by Xbox 360 owners who suffered ruined discs due to a fault within the console is moving to the US Supreme Court, which prompted the presiding Chief Justice John Roberts to sell between $250,000 and $500,000 in Microsoft stock, rather than excuse himself from the case over a conflict of interest, the Associated Press reports.
Since it is a violation of Federal law for a judge to preside over a case involving a company he or she own shares in – and, so, is given the option to sell their shares or excuse themselves from the case – the matter has encouraged debate over whether judges should be allowed to own shares in major companies to start with, or be allowed to sell their shares in order to remain a case.
“We’re not talking about grandpa’s stock in the family business where a justice might have some sentimental reason for holding onto the shares. These are major corporations who regularly come before the court,” Arthur Hellman, a specialist in judicial ethics at the University of Pittsburgh, told the AP.
Last October, Chief Justice Roberts presided over an appeal against Texas Instruments, which was being asked to contribute funds to clean up hazardous waste it was accused of being responsible for. Roberts, who denied the appeal, was involved despite owning between $100,001 and $250,000 shares in Texas Instruments. Kathy Arberg, a court spokesperson, admitted that Roberts’ involvement was a mistake.