A potential glitch in the Alito nomination has arisen. He is taking some criticism for not recusing himself from a 2003 appeals court case involving the Vanguard Group, a mutual fund company. In his 1990 confirmation hearing for the appeals court, he promised to recuse himself from any cases involving this company, with whom he has over $400,000 invested in a mutual fund. But 13 years later, he heard a case involving a woman’s claim against that company, a claim that had been dismissed by a lower court.
He and two other judges from that appeals court upheld the lower court’s dismissal in a 3-0 decision. The plaintiff then asked for a vote of the full court (called an en banc rehearing) of appeals and complained of Alito’s involvement on the basis of his investments with Vanguard, and Alito then recused himself from the en banc proceedings. Is this a big deal? Not really. He doesn’t own stock in Vanguard itself, or any part of the company, he invests money in other companies through them. The case under consideration involved money in the thousands of dollars for a company with billions in assets and investments, so there is no reasonable connection between his own financial interest in the outcome of the case. And given that the rest of that court’s judges agreed with him in upholding the lower court ruling, there is no evidence that any consideration swayed his opinion. This is a tempest in a teapot at worst.