Calls intensify for Roberts to urge Alito to recuse himself

House Judiciary Committee Democrats have requested Chief Justice John Roberts to provide an explanation on how the Supreme Court intends to enforce its code of conduct. They have raised concerns over Justice Samuel Alito potentially violating the court’s policies by displaying flags associated with the “Stop the Steal” movement at his residences.

The group claims that Alito has violated two provisions. One provision states that justices cannot endorse a candidate for office, while the other requires recusal when their impartiality could be reasonably questioned.

Last year, in response to another Supreme Court scandal, the code of conduct was implemented. The scandal involved Justice Clarence Thomas accepting various vacations, gifts, and even payment of school tuition for a relative from a conservative mega donor.

In a letter, the Democrats on the committee, including ranking member Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), expressed their concern about the adoption of a code of ethics without proper enforcement. They emphasized that this lack of consequences for unethical behavior only strengthens the perception that Supreme Court justices can operate without being held accountable.

“Are you considering asking Justice Alito to recuse himself from any cases involving Donald Trump? If not, what is your reasoning behind this decision?”

The panel also requests Roberts to provide information about when he became aware of Alito’s display of flags.

Just hours after rejecting calls in the Senate for his recusal from a pending case, Justice Alito received a letter. The case in question is examining whether former President Trump still has presidential immunity for his actions leading up to January 6th.

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Shortly after the 2020 election, Alito expressed his distress by flying an upside-down American flag. This symbolic gesture has historically been used to signal distress and was also adopted by some individuals protesting former President Trump’s loss in the election. Unfortunately, it later became associated with the “Stop the Steal” movement, which propagated false claims of election fraud in an attempt to prevent the peaceful transfer of presidential power.

In 2023, at his vacation home in New Jersey, he proudly displayed an “Appeal to Heaven” flag. While this flag has historical origins in the Revolutionary War, it has also become a symbol for conservative, Biblical-centered government. Interestingly, this flag was even spotted among the mob that stormed the Capitol on January 6th.

According to the letter, it is hard to imagine any other interpretation for Justice Alito’s upside-down flag other than showing political endorsement for Donald Trump.

Justice Alito explained that it was his wife who made the decision to raise the flag at their home. He emphasized that she has the legal right to use the property as she wishes and mentioned that she has a fondness for displaying flags.

During the interview, Alito confirmed what was reported by The New York Times regarding the couple’s dispute with their neighbors. According to the article, the conflict arose from the yard signs that were put up after the election, which were critical of Trump. Alito further mentioned in his conversation with Fox News that one of the signs displayed a profane message directed towards Trump.

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According to Democrats, the back-and-forth exchange regarding the signage raises concerns.

According to their letter, the Alitos have admitted that the yard sign they displayed expressed their strong anti-Trump sentiment, which suggests that they felt compelled to counter it by showing their support for Donald Trump.

In the past year, there were demands for Thomas to recuse himself due to his wife, Virginia, being involved in the efforts to overturn the 2020 election results. Similar to Alito, Thomas has chosen not to remove himself from the situation.

The Supreme Court has not yet responded to a request for comment as of Wednesday.

The letter, however, raises several questions for Roberts to consider regarding the court’s code of conduct. One of the concerns is how he intends to enforce the code, as the policy does not provide a specific mechanism for doing so.

They ask if this incident has made you reconsider the absence of an enforcement mechanism in the Code of Conduct for Supreme Court Justices.

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