Alito tells lawmakers he won’t recuse himself from Supreme Court cases despite flag controversy


Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito told lawmakers in a letter Wednesday He will not recuse himself from cases related to the 2020 presidential election or January 6, 2021. The US Capitol riots despite concerns over two controversial flags flown on his property.

“The two incidents you cite do not meet the criteria for recusal,” Alito wrote in a letter distributed by the Supreme Court. “As I have said publicly, I had nothing to do with flying that flag. I was not aware of the inverted flag until it was brought to my attention.

The letter was a highly unusual response, underscoring how revelations about the flags have dogged Alito for days. Supreme Court justices rarely engage in back-and-forth with lawmakers, and many members of the court don’t — or don’t — explain their reasons for recusing themselves.

01:24 – Source: CNN

See how GOP lawmakers reacted to Judge Alito’s flag controversy

The Supreme Court is weighing key cases related to the 2020 election and the attack on the US capital. In one, the justices are weighing the absolute immunity of former President Donald Trump’s special counsel, Jack Smith, from election tampering charges. In another, a January 6 rioter challenged the impeachment charge filed against him by prosecutors, arguing that the law applies to people who destroy evidence without attacking a government building.

Repeating what he said earlier about a An American flag flew upside down at his Alexandria, Virginia home In early 2021, Alito said the decision to place the flag was his wife’s. And he blamed the decision on “a very bad neighborhood dispute.”

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

“My wife likes to fly flags,” Alito wrote. “Not me.”

Second controversial flag – “Appeal to Heaven” flag It has Revolutionary War history, but has also become a symbol for Trump supporters — flown at Alitos’ vacation home in New Jersey. On Wednesday, the judge said he was aware of the flag but did not know how long it had been flying.

Alito said he did not know the meaning of the flag, and that his wife, Martha-Ann Alito, also raised it.

From Google

This Google Street View image, taken in August 2023, shows an “An Appeal to Heaven” flag flying at U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito’s home on Long Beach Island.

“I had nothing to do with the decision to fly that flag,” Alito wrote. “I don’t know, and neither does my wife, that there is any connection between that historical flag and ‘Stop Stealing.’

Citing codes of conduct recently adopted by the Supreme Court in response to another series of scandals, Alito said the flags did not constitute grounds for withdrawal.

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Alito said he had an “obligation” to reject the demands of members of Congress. One of the letters, sent to Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, demanded that Alito recuse himself from cases related to the attack on the Capitol. Another was addressed to members of the congregation who made similar demands.

“A reasonable person unmotivated by political or ideological considerations or seeking to influence the outcome of Supreme Court cases does not meet the applicability standard for recusal,” Alito wrote. “Therefore I am obliged to reject your request for recusal.”

In a statement, Durbin said his committee was reviewing a recent report on Alito as part of an investigation into “ethical lapses by some justices on the Supreme Court.”

The Illinois Democrat called flying the upside-down flag a “signal of defiance that raises legitimate questions of bias and fairness in pending court cases.”

“At the end of the day, by taking concrete action to establish a credible code of conduct for the Chief Justice, we can end this downward spiral of America’s confidence in our Supreme Court,” Durbin said. “I will continue to pursue what the American people demand: accountability, transparency and an enforceable code of conduct for Supreme Court justices.”

Sen. who chairs the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Court Ethics. Sheldon Whitehouse used the recent revelations to pressure the Supreme Court to pass the Ethics, Denial and Transparency Act. It was introduced last year following media reports About Justice Clarence Thomas’s pattern of not disclosing his financial statements for years.

“Judge Alito’s story contradicts the accounts of other people involved, and the Supreme Court — uniquely among all governments — has no means of getting at the truth. If the court doesn’t create one, we have to, and my SCERT Act will,” the Rhode Island Democrat said in a statement.

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

“I don’t know how any impartial and fair person would laugh at Justice Alito’s ‘dog ate my homework and I had homework,'” Johnson said.

Flagg’s revelation came from a May 17 report in the New York Times. The outlet posted a photo of an upside-down American flag on January 17, 2021.

Following the story, Alito said in a statement that he had “nothing to do with the flying of the flag” and that it was “briefly” flown by his wife in response to a neighbor’s yard signs, one of which, the judge told Fox News. , read “F**k Trump.”

Neighbors CNN spoke to following news of the flag said they remembered the flag being turned upside down, but didn’t know what it meant, and there was no public reaction at the time.

According to the Times, after several encounters with the judge’s wife in early 2021, a neighbor involved in an exchange with Martha-Ann Alito called the police after the neighbor placed yard signs criticizing the Republican Party and the justice.

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

Images obtained by The Times 2022 Roe v. Following Wade’s reversal, show neighbors holding signs that read “Alito was @ Jan6” along with “Apart Scottus.”

This story has been updated with additional details.

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

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