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Democrats renew calls for Alito to recuse himself amid flag flap

ERIN SCHAFF/POOL VIA REUTERS/FILE PHOTO
                                Associate Justice Samuel Alito poses during a group photo of the Justices at the Supreme Court in Washington, in April 2021. Democrats intensified their calls today for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito to step aside in two cases — one on Donald Trump’s bid for immunity from prosecution and the other on a charge involving the Capitol attack — after a media report that another provocative flag flew outside one of his homes.
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ERIN SCHAFF/POOL VIA REUTERS/FILE PHOTO

Associate Justice Samuel Alito poses during a group photo of the Justices at the Supreme Court in Washington, in April 2021. Democrats intensified their calls today for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito to step aside in two cases — one on Donald Trump’s bid for immunity from prosecution and the other on a charge involving the Capitol attack — after a media report that another provocative flag flew outside one of his homes.

WASHINGTON >> Democrats intensified their calls today for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito to step aside in two cases — one on Donald Trump’s bid for immunity from prosecution and the other on a charge involving the Capitol attack — after a media report that another provocative flag flew outside one of his homes.

A flag bearing the phrase “Appeal to Heaven” flew outside Alito’s vacation home on Long Beach Island, New Jersey, in July and September of 2023, the New York Times reported on Wednesday, citing photographs and interviews. This type of flag, which has come to symbolize hopes by some conservative activists for a more Christian-centered U.S. government, was carried by some Trump supporters during the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot.

The report came days after it was revealed that an upside-down American flag had flown outside Alito’s Virginia home in the aftermath of the riot and the days before Democratic President Joe Biden’s inauguration.

The inverted flag was adopted as a symbol by some Trump supporters, including some of the rioters who stormed the Capitol as Trump sought to overturn his 2020 election loss to Biden with false claims of widespread voting fraud and a “stolen” election.

Hakeem Jeffries, the top Democrat in the House of Representatives, said at his weekly press conference that Alito should recuse himself “from any matter pending before the Supreme Court of the United States that has to do with the January 6 violent insurrection. He should have no part of it.”

Jeffries earlier on social media said the American people “deserve better than an insurrectionist sympathizer on the Supreme Court.”

If the court “does not get its act under control,” Jeffries told reporters, congressional Democrats will use the first opportunity they get “to engage in thorough oversight and consideration of imposing an ethical code of conduct on Supreme Court justices.”

The court last November adopted its first formal code of conduct governing the ethical behavior of its nine justices.

An “Appeal to Heaven” flag also hangs outside the congressional office of Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson.

Democrat Dick Durbin, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, also called on Alito to “recuse himself immediately from cases related to the 2020 election and the January 6th insurrection,” calling the latest flag flap “another example of apparent ethical misconduct by a sitting justice, and it adds to the court’s ongoing ethical crisis.”

Durbin also said that the new issue will “further erode public faith in the court,” and that conservative Chief Justice John Roberts “must see how this is damaging the court and immediately enact an enforceable code of conduct.”

Alito, a member of the court’s 6-3 conservative majority, did not immediately respond to a request for comment today.

One of the two cases at the center of the recusal calls involves Trump’s claim of presidential immunity from prosecution on federal criminal charges relating to his efforts to overturn the 2020 election results.

The other involves a challenge by a Pennsylvania man to a federal criminal charge of obstruction that he faces for his involvement in the Jan. 6 attack. Trump faces the same charge in the election-related criminal case brought against him by Special Counsel Jack Smith.

Alito last week indicated that his wife had raised the upside-down flag outside their house in the Washington suburb of Alexandria in a dispute with a neighbor who displayed an anti-Trump sign.

Members of the judiciary typically take great care to avoid even the appearance of impartiality.

The flag revelations raise further ethics questions about the justices following revelations last year of undisclosed luxury trips and hobnobbing with wealthy benefactors by some of them.

Alito was the author of a major ruling today in which the court made it harder to prove racial discrimination in drawing electoral maps.

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