WASHINGTON (CN) – Finding that too many U.S. Supreme Court justices have financial conflicts of interest, the Supreme Court today refused to intervene in an appeal by 33 companies trying to stop lawsuits accusing them of doing business with the South African government during the apartheid era.
Only five justices participated in the hearing, one short of the quorum needed for the court to take action.
More than 50 companies have been trying to stop 11 claims filed under the Alien Tort Statute, demanding damages of more than $400 billion, among them Ford Motor Co., General Electric, IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Honeywell, Bank of America, 3M, and lead appellant American Isuzu.
Three justices are believed to have recused themselves because of their stock holdings: Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Breyer and Alito. Justice Kennedy is presumed to have recused himself because his son works for Credit Suisse Group, a defendant.
The governments of the United States and South Africa both have tried to stop the claims from going forward, but due to the Supreme Court justices’ wide-ranging investments, the claims can proceed.
The case is American Isuzu Motors v. Lungisile Ntsebeza.