Justice Samuel Alito rejects call to skip Trump cases amid flag dispute

US Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito rejected political pressure to withdraw from crucial election year cases after a controversy over flags outside his homes.

Justice Alito, a conservative, said in a letter to Democratic senators that the banners in question had been waved by his wife.

An inverted American flag and a pine tree flag, or ‘Appeal to Heaven,’ were photographed outside his home in suburban Virginia and a vacation home in New Jersey.

Judge Alito said the matter did not affect his impartiality in cases involving Donald Trump and the Capitol rioters.

“My wife likes to fly flags,” he wrote in a letter to two senators who asked him to stay away from key cases. “I am not.”

Justice Alito said the inverted American flag, which is used to indicate distress, was raised by his wife, Martha-Ann Alito, after a dispute with neighbors in January 2021, shortly after Trump supporters rioted in the United States Capitol.

“As I have publicly stated, I had nothing to do with the flying of that flag,” Justice Alito wrote.

“I didn’t even notice the inverted flag until it was brought to my attention. As soon as I saw it, I asked my wife to remove it, but for several days she refused.”

The New York Times, which first reported on the inverted flag, published a detailed account of the neighborhood dispute on Tuesday.

According to the newspaper, a local couple posted signs outside their home with messages including “Trump is a fascist” and “You are complicit” and another about Trump that included a profanity.

The couple and the Alitos exchanged words on several occasions. Judge Alito told Fox News that he and his wife were on a walk in the neighborhood when a man outside the house with Trump signs directed an obscene epithet at them.

Police were contacted at one point, the newspaper said, but no crime was recorded and no arrests were made.

Judge Alito said his wife “was very distraught at the time due in large part to a very unpleasant neighborhood dispute in which I had no part.”

The ‘Appeal to Heaven’ flag was seen outside Alito’s vacation home more than two years later, in 2023. The Supreme Court justice said it was one of many historical, themed and sports team flags his wife placed outside the house.

After the flag stories emerged, Senators Richard Durbin and Sheldon Whitehouse, both Democrats, wrote to Justice Alito asking him to withdraw from key cases that the US Supreme Court will rule on.

The cases include a crucial ruling on whether Trump has immunity from prosecution and whether criminal charges of obstruction of an official proceeding were properly used in the Capitol riot cases.

The senators said that justice had “created reasonable doubts about his impartiality” and that “his recusal in these matters is necessary and required.”

But in his response, Judge Alito, appointed in 2006 by Republican President George W. Bush, said the two incidents “did not meet the applicable standard for recusal.”

A clause in the US Constitution says that a judge “shall disqualify himself from any proceeding in which his impartiality may reasonably be questioned.” The decision corresponds to the judges of the Supreme Court themselves.

Judge Alito is not the first jurist to refuse to recuse himself from a Trump-related case amid accusations of bias linked to a family member’s alleged partisanship.

New York Judge Juan Merchán, who is presiding over the former president’s ongoing secret money trial, rejected calls to resign over his daughter’s work as a Democratic political consultant.

Leave a Comment