The Supreme Court this morning announced it was granting review in Bruesewitz v. Wyeth, a test of the scope of the pre-emption provision of the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986. It also noted that Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. "took no part" in the consideration or decision of the Court to take the case.
Though the justices almost never reveal their reasons for recusal, this one is almost certainly based on the fact that, as of the last financial disclosure form filed by Roberts in May 2009, he owned stock valued at $15,000 or less in Pfizer Inc.Pfizer acquired rival Wyeth in late 2009.
Roberts' stock ownership in Pfizer became an issue in last year's landmark pre-emption case Wyeth v. Levine. As we reported here in February 2009, Wyeth's lawyer in that case, former Solicitor General Seth Waxman, informed the Court of the pending merger between Pfizer and Wyeth, but said the transaction was unlikely to be completed before July 31. He did not mention Roberts' stock ownership, but in the end Roberts did not recuse in that case, probably because the merger had not yet occurred so his Pfizer stock did not, strictly speaking, trigger a conflict of interest. Wyeth v. Levine was handed down March 4, 2009.
The two companies become one on Oct. 15, according to this Pfizer announcement, which likely explains why Roberts has recused in this Wyeth case.