Last month, BP appealed their settlement agreement with Gulf Coast victims to the U.S. Supreme Court, hoping to weasel their way out of the deal they already agreed to. While waiting for the higher courts to decide to accept the case, BP had asked Justice Scalia “to recall and stay the mandate”. Justice Scalia is responsible for all emergency matters pertaining to the Supreme Court appeals. In a surprise move that few saw coming, Justice Scalia denied “the application to recall and stay”.
The denial is a great win for the plaintiffs’ side. Denying the stay means that BP will be required to pay compensation while waiting to see if the SCOTUS will accept BP’s case. This will allow businesses to continue operations from the payments they will be receiving. Many of these businesses have been out of operation since October when the appeal in lower courts began.
The chances of Scalia acting on behalf of the American public are slim. But there is an interesting theory as to why Scalia denied BP’s claim: The conflict of interest with Scalia and his son has been receiving a lot of attention in recent weeks, and a favorable ruling from Scalia could have endangered his career.
Justice Scalia’s son, Eugene Scalia, works at the law firm of Gibson Dunn, the firm representing BP in the matter. But Scalia is not the only judge that could have a conflict of interest with the appeal to the Supreme Court: Justice Alito, who will be presiding over the case’s appeal, also has a son working for BP. Scalia would have been extremely scrutinized for his impartiality in this case had he decided to approve the stay. Approval would have possibly caused him to recuse himself from the case.
At this point, Justice Scalia will not recuse himself from the case since his son has agreed to receive no compensation for all Supreme Court cases that his firm handles.
Not coincidentally, public approval of SCOTUS is at an all-time low. Did Scalia act in favor of the public’s opinion to raise approval ratings? Did he have information on whether or not the Supreme Court is even going to accept on the BP Appeal? Whatever reason it may have been, denying the stay is a great win for the plaintiffs and restores a little faith in SCOTUS.
Had Scalia approved the stay, BP would not have had to pay claims until the Supreme Court made a decision on whether or not they would review the appeal. Luckily for those affected by the oil spill, BP will be providing compensation.