Alito tells him he won’t recover from Supreme Court cases despite flag controversy


Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito said in a letter Wednesday that he will not recuse himself from cases involving the 2020 presidential election or the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol, despite concerns over two controversial flags that floated on his properties.

“The two incidents you cite do not meet the requirements for recusal,” Alito wrote in a letter distributed by the Supreme Court. “As I have stated publicly, I had nothing to do with the display of this flag. I wasn’t even aware of the toppled flag until it was brought to my attention.

The letter is a highly unusual response, highlighting how the flag revelations have dogged Alito for days. Supreme Court justices rarely interact with their partners and many members of the Court do not explain the reasons for their recusal – or not.

01:24 – Source: CNN

See how GOP partners responded to Justice Alito’s flag controversy

The Supreme Court is considering major cases related to the 2020 election and the attack on the U.S. Capitol. In one, the justices are weighing former President Donald Trump’s claim to absolute immunity from election subversion charges brought by special counsel Jack Smith. In another, a Jan. 6 rioter challenges an obstruction charge brought against him by prosecutors, arguing that Congress intended that law to apply to people destroying evidence, not storming a government building .

Repeating claims he previously made regarding an upside-down American flag flying at his home in Alexandria, Virginia, in early 2021, Alito said the decision to place the flag was up to his wife. And he attributed this decision to a “very unpleasant neighborhood conflict”.

“My wife is a private citizen and has the same First Amendment rights as every other American,” Alito wrote in one of two letters sent to members of Congress. “She makes her own decisions and I have always respected her right to do so.”

“My wife loves flying flags,” Alito wrote. “I’m not.”

A second controversial flag – the “Call to Heaven” flag, which traces its history to the Revolutionary War but has also become a symbol for Trump supporters – was flown at the Alitos’ vacation home in New Jersey . The judge said Wednesday that he was familiar with the flag but did not know how long it had flown.

Alito said he didn’t know the meaning of the flag and said his wife, Martha-Ann Alito, also raised it.

From Google

This Google Street View image from August 2023 shows the “An Appeal to Heaven” flag flying at the home of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito on Long Beach Island.

“I have no involvement in the decision to fly this flag,” Alito wrote. “I was not aware of any connection between this historic flag and the Stop the Steal movement, and neither was my wife. She did not fly it to associate with this or any other group, and the use of an old historic flag by a new group does not necessarily empty that flag of any other meaning.

Citing the code of conduct the Supreme Court recently adopted in response to another round of scandals, Alito said the flags were not grounds for recusal.

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Alito said he was “required” to reject requests to recusal members of Congress. One of the letters was addressed to the senator from Illinois. Dick Durbin, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who had asked Alito to recuse himself from cases involving the attack on the Capitol. Another was addressed to MPs who had made similar requests.

“A reasonable person who is not motivated by political or ideological considerations or by a desire to influence the outcome of Supreme Court cases would conclude that this event does not meet the applicable standards for recusal,” wrote Alito. “I therefore have the duty to reject your request for recusal.”

Durbin said in a statement that his committee reviewed recent reports about Alito as part of its investigation into “ethical lapses by certain Supreme Court justices.”

The Illinois Democrat called the flying of the upside-down flag “a signal of defiance, which raises reasonable questions about bias and fairness in the cases pending before the Court.”

“Ultimately, the chief justice can end this growing decline in America’s confidence in our Supreme Court by taking decisive action to establish a credible code of conduct,” Durbin said. “I will continue to pursue what the American people demand: accountability, transparency, and an enforceable code of conduct for Supreme Court justices. »

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, who chairs a Senate Judiciary subcommittee examining court ethics, used the recent revelations to push through his Supreme Court Ethics, Recusal and Transparency Act, which he presented last year following media reports about Justice Clarence Thomas’s pattern of non-disclosure. on its financial reports for years.

“Justice Alito’s story is at odds with the accounts of others involved, and the Supreme Court – uniquely in any government – ​​has no mechanism to uncover the truth. If the Court does not create one, then we must, and my SCERT law would,” the Rhode Island Democrat said in a statement.

Rep. Hank Johnson, a Georgia Democrat who serves on the House Judiciary Committee, said Alito’s response demonstrated the need for Congress to intervene to approve an enforceable ethics code within the high court.

“Any fair-minded, reasonable person would find Justice Alito’s defense that the dog ate my homework and I didn’t even know I had homework laughable,” Johnson said.

The flag reveal came from a May 17 article in the New York Times. The media published a photo of the inverted American flag on January 17, 2021.

Following the story, Alito said in a statement that he had “no involvement in the display of the flag” and that it was “briefly” flown by his wife in response to the court signs. a neighbor, one of whom, the judge told Fox News. , read “F**k Trump.”

Neighbors CNN spoke with following reports of the flag said they remembered the flag being inverted, but said they didn’t know what that meant and that it didn’t There was no public reaction at the time.

According to the Times, a neighbor involved in the exchange with Martha-Ann Alito called the police after several meetings with the judge’s wife in early 2021, after the neighbor placed signs in the yard criticizing Republicans and the judiciary.

Justice Alito also told Fox News that the neighbor used the term “c*nt” at one point during the exchanges.

Photos obtained by the Times show the neighbor holding signs reading “Alito was on Jan. 6” as well as “Abort SCOTUS” following the 2022 decision overturning Roe v. Wade.

This story has been updated with additional details.

CNN’s Jack Forrest, Morgan Rimmer, Tierney Sneed and Holmes Lybrand contributed to this report.

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