Justice Alito informs Democrats he won't recuse himself over flag controversies

 May 30, 2024

As part of a media-manufactured controversy over the flying of certain historic flags recently associated with right-wing groups, Democrats in the House and Senate have demanded the recusal of conservative Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito from certain cases.

In virtually identical letters sent on Wednesday, Alito rather politely told those Democratic lawmakers to get over their faux outrage, as he would not acquiesce to their demands to disqualify himself from the particular cases, the Associated Press reported.

Democrats in both chambers, spurred on by the biased media, had launched a public pressure campaign to force Alito's recusal from former President Donald Trump's immunity case and another case dealing with the Justice Department's overly broad use of an obstruction charge against Jan. 6 Capitol rioters.

Contrived controversy over historic flags

According to SCOTUSblog, controversy erupted about two weeks ago when the media began to report on the sighting of an upside-down U.S. flag outside Justice Alito's home in January 2021, a little more than a week after the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, when the historic symbol for national distress was also displayed by some of the rioters.

About a week later, the media further reported on the sighting of a Revolutionary War-era "Appeal to Heaven" flag outside Alito's vacation home in New Jersey, with that historic flag having also been seen at the Capitol riot in addition to having allegedly been adopted in recent years by Christian nationalist groups.

Given the purported partisan symbolism of those flags, Democrats in the House and Senate insisted that Alito needed to recuse himself from the Trump immunity and Capitol riot obstruction cases, and even attempted to pressure Chief Justice John Roberts into forcing his colleague's disqualification.

At issue here is a provision with the Supreme Court's Code of Conduct adopted last year, Canon 3(B)(2), which states: "A Justice should disqualify himself or herself in a proceeding in which the Justice’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned, that is, where an unbiased and reasonable person who is aware of all relevant circumstances would doubt that the Justice could fairly discharge his or her duties."

Alito reveals he will not recuse himself

In separate letters to Democrats in the House and Senate, Justice Alito duly noted Canon 3(B)(2) but also highlighted 3(B)(1), which states, "A Justice is presumed impartial and has an obligation to sit unless disqualified," and wrote, "The two incidents you cite do not meet the conditions for recusal set out in (B)(2), and I therefore have an obligation to sit under 3(B)(1)."

He reiterated his initial statement about having no involvement in flying an upside-down U.S. flag outside his Virginia home, nor even any initial awareness of it, as it had been a decision made by his wife as part of an ongoing "very nasty neighborhood dispute" that involved the "vilest" personal attacks against her.

"My wife is a private citizen, and she possesses the same First Amendment rights as every other American. She makes her own decisions, and I have always respected her right to do so," Alito wrote. "She has made many sacrifices to accommodate my service on the Supreme Court, including the insult of having to endure numerous, loud, obscene, and personally insulting protests in front of our home that continue to this day and now threaten to escalate."

"I am confident that a reasonable person who is not motivated by political or ideological considerations or a desire to affect the outcome of Supreme Court cases would conclude that the events recounted above do not meet the applicable standard for recusal," he added. "I am therefore required to reject your request."

Justice is dealing with unreasonable people

Justice Alito also addressed the "Appeal to Heaven" flag controversy and made note of how his wife is "fond of flying flags" of all sorts, that neither of them was aware of any current partisan connections for the historic Revolutionary War banner, and that "the use of an old historic flag by a new group does not necessarily drain that flag of all other meanings."

He further noted that his wife is "an independently minded private citizen" who "makes her own decisions" and is the sole owner of their vacation home, which she purchased with inheritance money and is meant to be "a place, away from Washington, where she should be able to relax."

"A reasonable person who is not motivated by political or ideological considerations or a desire to affect the outcome of Supreme Court cases would conclude this event does not meet the applicable standard for recusal," Alito concluded. "I am therefore duty-bound to reject your recusal request."

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