Supreme Court’s Alito Rejects Calls To Recuse In 2020 Election-Related Cases

Alito rejects recuse calls

Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito rejected requests from Democratic lawmakers to recuse himself from two cases: one involving Donald Trump’s bid for immunity from prosecution and the other concerning a charge related to the Capitol attack. Reports had surfaced about contentious flags flown outside his homes.

In two letters to congressional Democrats, Alito clarified that his wife, not he, had flown the flags in question. He defended her actions as an exercise of her right to free speech under the U.S. Constitution. Trump, who is seeking to regain the presidency this year, quickly praised Alito’s decision.

The New York Times recently reported on two flags similar to those carried by some Trump supporters during the January 6, 2021, Capitol attack, which flew at Alito’s homes. An upside-down American flag flew at his Virginia home in the Washington suburbs, while a flag bearing the words “Appeal to Heaven” flew at his vacation house in New Jersey.

Alito asserted that the flag incidents “do not meet the conditions for recusal” under the code of conduct adopted by the justices last year. He addressed the letters to Dick Durbin, who chairs the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, and fellow Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, along with dozens of House Democrats, including Hank Johnson.

Alito informed the lawmakers that his wife, Martha-Ann Alito, had flown the flags. “My wife is a private citizen, and she possesses the same First Amendment rights as every other American,” Alito wrote. “She makes her own decisions, and I have always respected her right to do so.”

My wife is fond of flying flags

Alito noted that his wife has flown a variety of flags over the years, including patriotic, seasonal, religious, sports team flags, and those celebrating family ancestry. “My wife is fond of flying flags,” Alito wrote. “I am not.”

Justice Alito, a member of the court’s 6-3 conservative majority, emphasized that he does not share his wife’s affinity for flag-flying.

Last November, the justices adopted their first formal code of conduct following revelations of undisclosed luxury trips and socializing with wealthy benefactors by some of them, raising questions about their ethical standards.

“While I’m encouraged that Justice Alito saw fit to respond to the two letters seeking his recusal, his unilateral and final decision as judge and jury over our recusal request demonstrates the urgent need for Congress to pass legislation that imposes on Supreme Court justices a code of conduct with an enforcement mechanism,” Johnson said in a statement.

Durbin’s and Whitehouse’s offices did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

One of the two cases in question involves Trump’s claim of presidential immunity from prosecution on federal criminal charges related to his efforts to overturn the 2020 election results. The other case involves a challenge by a Pennsylvania man to a federal criminal charge of obstruction he faces for his involvement in the January 6 riot. Trump faces the same charge in the election-related criminal case brought against him by Special Counsel Jack Smith.

Rulings expected in June

Both cases have already been argued before the court, with rulings expected by the end of June. The court plans to issue rulings on Thursday.

Trump, the Republican candidate challenging Democratic President Joe Biden in the November 5 U.S. election, praised Alito in a social media post for rejecting calls to recuse. “Congratulations to United States Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito for showing the INTELLIGENCE, COURAGE, and ‘GUTS’ to refuse stepping aside from making a decision on anything January 6th related,” Trump wrote. He added that “All U.S. Judges, Justices, and Leaders should have such GRIT.”

In his letters, Alito elaborated on his wife’s actions in flying the two flags. He explained that she raised the upside-down flag while distressed over a dispute with a neighbor, during which the neighbor used the “vilest epithet” against her. The New York Times reported on Tuesday that this name-calling occurred weeks after the inverted flag was taken down.

Regarding the “Appeal from Heaven” flag, which some conservative activists view as a symbol of their hopes for a more Christian-centered U.S. government, Alito stated he was unaware of any connection between the flag and the “Stop the Steal Movement.” “I was not aware of any connection between that historic flag and the ‘Stop the Steal Movement,’ and neither was my wife,” Alito wrote, referring to Trump’s false claims that widespread voting fraud stole the 2020 U.S. election from him.