Justice Sotomayor revealed to be only Supreme Court member who hasn't been recused from a case this term

 May 24, 2024

Supreme Court justices will occasionally disqualify and recuse themselves from certain cases and not take part in the final decision for a variety of reasons, not all of which are bad or indicate an ethical shortfall.

In this current term that is about to end, eight of the nine justices have stepped aside from a case at least once, with only liberal Justice Sonia Sotomayor being involved in every single opinion issued thus far, according to Newsweek.

That bit of trivia comes amid a concerted push by Democratic politicians and leftist activists to try to force the disqualification and recusal of the conservative jurists, specifically Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, from certain politically charged cases the court is considering.

Justices Kavanaugh and Jackson recently recused themselves

The most recently revealed recusals came earlier this week when Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Ketanji Brown Jackson sat out a decision by their seven colleagues to reject an appeal from a former Guantanamo Bay detainee who sought to overturn a prior conviction for killing a U.S. soldier in Afghanistan more than two decades ago.

The readily apparent reason for those disqualifications was that both Kavanaugh and Jackson, in their prior roles as appellate court judges, had been previously involved in the former detainee's case.

In the brief announcement in Monday's Order List, a provision of the Supreme Court's new Code of Conduct adopted last year was cited for their lack of participation in the decision to reject the petition.

In addition to "prior judicial service," other reasons for disqualification in the Code include whenever a justice's "impartiality might be reasonably questioned," such as for "personal bias and prejudice," prior involvement with a party to a case as a lawyer or witness, any fiduciary or financial interest in a party to a case by the justice or a family member, or any close relations between a party to a case and a justice or family member.

A new tactic for leftist activists?

Newsweek highlighted one particularly consequential instance in January when all six Republican-appointed Supreme Court justices sat out an abortion-related case in Texas, leaving only the three Democrat-appointed jurists to decide it, after all six had been named as defendants in the underlying lawsuit.

There was a similar occurrence in 2022 when five of the conservative-leaning justices sat out an abortion case in Oklahoma because they had also been named as defendants.

While that may seem like the start of a troubling trend that could be seized upon by activists to automatically force the recusal of justices they don't like by naming them as defendants in a lawsuit, the high court's new Code explicitly states that "A Justice is presumed impartial and has an obligation to sit
unless disqualified," and further notes that "The rule of necessity may override the rule of disqualification," meaning having enough justices active to render a decision is more important than a justice recusing themself from a particular case.

Targeting Alito, Thomas, and other conservative-leaning jurists

All of this comes as Democrats and leftist activists seek to force conservative Justice Alito from two critically important cases -- the DOJ's overbroad use of an obstruction charge against Jan. 6 Capitol riot defendants and former President Trump's immunity claim -- because of certain common and historic flags flown at his homes, according to CBS News.

Reports indicate that Alito, or his wife, flew an upside-down U.S. flag outside their Virginia home in early 2021, long considered a symbol of national distress and discontent, as well as a Revolutionary War-era "Appeal to Heaven" flag outside a vacation home in 2023. Alito's critics have attempted to attribute current partisan meaning to those historically symbolic flags, in that some Capitol rioters also carried an upside-down U.S. flag and some Christian Nationalists have adopted the "Appeal to Heaven" flag for their own purposes.

Meanwhile, The Washington Post reported that top Senate Democrats are now attempting to pressure and shame Chief Justice John Roberts into addressing the purported "ethics crisis" in his court, lest those lawmakers feel forced to violate the separation of powers principles and impose their own will on the court with dubious legislation.

Of course, Alito is merely the latest target of this effort by the left to interfere with and shape the Supreme Court's makeup, as Justice Thomas -- and to a lesser extent, Justices Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett -- has been at the center of leftist media-contrived controversies that supposedly warrant disqualification for the past few years.

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