Why did Justice Stevens recuse from Florida Beach Renourishment Case?

December 4th, 2009

Earlier this week I blogged about Justice Stevens’s surprising absence from the bench in Stop the Beach Renourishment, Inc. v. Florida Department of Environmental Protection. Why did Stevens recuse? The Blog of the Legal Times has some info:

Stevens declined to discuss the matter, but a possible explanation is offered by Ilya Shapiro, senior fellow in constitutional studies at the Cato Institute, which filed a brief in the case on the side of property owners. Shapiro said that “a fan of Cato” he won’t name sent him public documents about Stevens’ condominium property in Ft. Lauderdale. The documents indicate that the justice’s property is within a renourishment zone similar to the property at issue in the case.

Shapiro said he did not file a recusal motion asking Stevens to bow out, because it “might seem self-serving.” Conventional wisdom, Shapiro added, puts Stevens in the camp of justices who would approve of the government program, so “it seemed that not having him in the case would help the property owners.”

Instead, Shapiro sent the material to several journalists, at least one of whom, he said, conveyed the information to Stevens and asked for comment, without success. Nothing more was heard on the subject until the argument began with Stevens not on the bench.

This is the stuff D.C. Rumor mills are made of. Thoughts?