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Judge faces recusal calls over inverted flag
Published on: Sunday, May 19, 2024
By: AFP
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Judge faces recusal calls over inverted flag
The inverted flag at the Alito (right) residence on Jan 17, 2021, three days before Biden’s inauguration.
WASHINGTON: A US Supreme Court justice faced calls to recuse himself from cases involving Donald Trump after an inverted American flag—a symbol of the former president’s false election fraud claims—was flown outside his home.

A January 2021 photograph of the upside-down flag outside the Alexandria, Virginia house of archconservative Justice Samuel Alito was published by The New York Times.

The report has intensified scrutiny of the conservative-dominated nation’s highest court as it prepares to rule on the scope of the former president’s immunity from prosecution.

In a statement to the newspaper, the 74-year-old Alito said he “had no involvement whatsoever in the flying of the flag,” which was displayed in the weeks following the January 6, 2021 storming of the US Capitol by Trump supporters.

Alito, who was appointed by former Republican president George W. Bush, said the flag was “briefly” flown by his wife “in response to a neighbour’s use of objectionable and personally insulting language on yard signs.”

Another staunch conservative justice, Clarence Thomas, has also been the target of recusal demands because of his wife’s involvement with efforts to block Democrat Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory.

Thomas, 75, the longest-serving justice on the court, has refused to step aside from Trump-related cases and recently described the nation’s capital as an “awful place” full of “nastiness” and “lies.”

Democratic Senator Dick Durbin, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said Alito should “recuse himself immediately from cases related to the 2020 election and the January 6th insurrection.”

“Flying an upside-down American flag—a symbol of the so-called ‘Stop the Steal’ movement—clearly creates the appearance of bias,” Durbin said.

“The Court is in an ethical crisis of its own making, and Justice Alito and the rest of the Court should be doing everything in their power to regain public trust,” Durbin said.

“Supreme Court justices should be held to the highest ethical standards, not the lowest.”

Another Democratic senator, Richard Blumenthal of New Jersey, told MSNBC the flag report left him “beyond disturbed.”

Blumenthal said Chief Justice John Roberts “has to tell these two justices that they have no business sitting on” Trump cases.

Asked about the Alito controversy, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said “we should be respecting that flag.”

“I cannot speak to if he should recuse himself,” Jean-Pierre added. “That is for the court to decide.”

And, the Supreme Court adopted an ethics code in November of last year following a series of scandals over lavish gifts and luxury vacations received by Thomas and Alito, both of whom have denied any impropriety.

The nine members of the court, three of whom were appointed by Trump, are the only federal judges not explicitly subject to ethical oversight, and pressure had been mounting from Senate Democrats for them to accept a set of standards.

The nine-page Code of Conduct, which was signed by all of the justices, requires them to “uphold the integrity and independence of the judiciary” and “avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all activities.”

Supreme Court justices are nominated by the President, confirmed by the Senate, and serve for life.

The court’s popularity is near historic lows, with a recent Gallup poll finding that only 41 percent of Americans approve of the job it is doing.

 

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