Chief Justice John Roberts refuses to meet with Democrats on ethics issues amid Alito flag flying

WASHINGTON — Chief Justice John Roberts declined Thursday to meet with Democratic senators to discuss Supreme Court ethics issues following reports that controversial flags were flown outside Justice Samuel Alito’s homes.

In a letter to Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, DRI, Roberts said he “must respectfully decline your request for a meeting,” citing concerns about maintaining democratic independence.

Roberts’ refusal to meet with senators was not a surprise, since last year he refused to attend a hearing on the ethics issue for similar reasons.

He noted in the latest letter that meeting with representatives of a party “who have expressed an interest in matters pending before the court” is another reason why “such a meeting would be discouraged.”

Last week, the two senators asked Roberts to address what they called “the Supreme Court’s ethical crisis” following a New York Times report that flags were flying on the building from the Capitol by some Donald Trump supporters in January. On January 6, 2021, were also displayed at the home of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito.

In their letter, the senators requested to meet with Roberts “as soon as possible” and renewed their “call for the Supreme Court to adopt an enforceable code of conduct for judges.”

That was before Alito himself sent letters to the Capitol this week refusing to recuse himself from cases involving Trump or Jan. 6.

Alito said the high standards for recusal were not met, emphasizing that the flags were flown by his wife and that he was not involved in the decisions.

As first reported by the New York Times, an upside-down American flag was seen at the Alito home in Virginia, while a flag associated with conservative Christians was seen at the family’s vacation home in New Jersey.

Alito said in his letters that “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 no recusal was necessary .

The Court then adopted a new ethics code in November, which itself drew criticism largely because the justices themselves have the final say on how to enforce it.

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