Senate Democrats seek meeting with Chief Justice John Roberts after controversy over Alito's flag

Washington — Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin and subcommittee head Senator Sheldon Whitehouse are seeking a meeting with Chief Justice John Roberts to discuss ethics issues at the Supreme Court following reports of flags being flown outside Justice Samuel Alito's home led to outrage.

The request from Durbin and Whitehouse, both Democrats, comes just after a couple by reports from the New York Times showing that an upside-down flag flew outside Justice Samuel Alito's home in Virginia in mid-January 2021, and an “Appeal to Heaven” flag was displayed outside his vacation home in New Jersey in the summer of 2023.

The presence of the flags sparked a backlash from Democrats, as both types of flags were carried by rioters who breached the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, and have been associated with the “Stop the Steal” movement.

In a letter To Roberts sent Friday, Durbin and Whitehouse urged him to take steps to ensure Alito recuses himself from matters related to the 2020 presidential election and the Jan. 6 attack. The Supreme Court currently has two cases pending regarding these matters: the first concerns use of an obstruction charge by federal prosecutors levied against those allegedly involved in the January 6 attack; the second raises the question of whether former President Donald Trump is entitled to broad immunity of criminal charges stemming from his alleged efforts to undermine the transfer of presidential power following the 2020 elections.

Alito took part in oral arguments in both cases, which were heard in April, and Supreme Court rulings are expected in the coming weeks. The court's term is expected to end in late June and early July adjudication in disputes involving abortion, guns, and federal regulatory power.

“By displaying upside-down flags and 'Appeal to Heaven' flags outside his homes, Judge Alito actively engaged in political activity, failed to avoid the appearance of impropriety, and failed to act in a manner that would undermine the confidence of promotes public awareness of the government's impartiality. judiciary,” said Durbin and Whitehouse.

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The Democratic senators argued that the presence of the flags raised reasonable doubt about his ability to be impartial and perform his duties in the election and in January-related matters.

“His refusal in these matters is both necessary and required,” they wrote.

Durbin and Whitehouse also reiterated their call for the Supreme Court to adopt an enforceable code of conduct for judges, and they requested a meeting with Roberts “as soon as possible” to discuss steps to “address the Supreme Court's ethics crisis to catch.”

“Until the court and the Judicial Conference take meaningful action to address this ongoing ethics crisis, we will continue our efforts to enact legislation to resolve this crisis,” the Democrats said.

The Supreme Court adopted a set of ethical principles in November after reports of trips that Judge Clarence Thomas and Alito accepted from wealthy Republican donors. The trip was not listed on any of their financial disclosure forms, although both judges said they did not believe they were required to publicly report the trips.

The code of conduct established by the Supreme Court lacks an enforcement mechanism, and Senate Democrats have pushed for it legislation requiring the Supreme Court adopt binding ethics rules that must be adopted by the full Senate.

The latest political firestorm involving the justices erupted last week after the New York Times published its first report in early 2021 on the inverted American flag seen outside Alito's Virginia residence. An inverted flag has been used to indicate distress.

He told the Times in a statement that he had “no involvement whatsoever in raising the flag” outside his home and said it was “briefly placed by Mrs. Alito in response to a neighbor's use of offensive and personally insulting language on the WARF. characters.”

The Times then reported earlier this week that the 'Appeal to Heaven flag, also known as the Pine Tree flag, was spotted outside his New Jersey vacation home last summer.

The flag dates back to the American Revolution and signified resistance to British colonization. It was often seen “at sea as the flag of the cruisers ordered by General Washington,” a spokesman said conference report published in 2006. The phrase “an appeal to heaven” was used by the 17th century philosopher John Locke in his Second Treatise of Government.

The Supreme Court did not request comment on the “Appeal to Heaven” flag.

Alito has come under pressure from Democrats to recuse himself from another case involving the constitutionality of an obscure tax, this term before the Supreme Court. He participated in interviews with a Wall Street Journal editor and an attorney representing the couple involved in the tax case, which was heard by the justices in December. Alito rejected the calls to step aside in the case, saying in a statement that there was “no valid reason” for his refusal.

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