On Wednesday, May 29, 2024, The Washington Times reported that the Article III Project filed an ethics complaint against U.S. District Judge Michael Ponsor. The judicial advocacy group took issue with comments Judge Ponsor made criticizing Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito.

Judge Ponsor wrote an opinion piece published in The New York Times, where he said Justice Alito flying an upside-down American flag at his home was “improper and dumb.” The inverted flag had been displayed at Justice Alito’s Virginia residence in the aftermath of the January 6th, 2021 riots at the U.S. Capitol.

Judge Ponsor, a Clinton appointee to the federal bench in Massachusetts, suggested the flag flew in violation of judicial ethics codes. However, he provided no evidence or legal reasoning to support his claim that many viewed the flag as a partisan political symbol.

Mike Davis, president of the Article III Project, filed the ethics complaint with the Judicial Council of the First Circuit. Davis called for the council to take action over Judge Ponsor’s “highly inappropriate, baseless, and prejudicial political speech.” Specifically, Davis argued it was wrong for a sitting federal judge to publicly criticize another judge, in this case a Supreme Court justice, while criminal cases were ongoing.

The complaint centers around principles of judicial impartiality and avoiding even the appearance of bias. By singling out and dismissing Justice Alito’s explanation for displaying the flag as “dumb,” Judge Ponsor may have called into question his own objectiveness. Further, Davis stated no evidence was presented by Judge Ponsor to substantiate claims about how the public perceived the inverted flag.

In response to the media attention, Justice Alito maintained the flag was flown by his wife, not himself. He sent a letter to Congress last week, refusing calls to recuse from upcoming cases related to the 2020 election or January 6th due to the flag. Alito said as a private citizen, his wife has autonomy over decisions about their household flags.

Looking ahead, the Judicial Council will review the complaint against Judge Ponsor and decide whether to open an investigation.



Source: The Washington Times