On Friday, June 7, 2024, BU Today published an interview with Boston University legal scholar Jack Beerman regarding the debate over whether Supreme Court justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas should recuse themselves from upcoming insurrection-related cases.

Beerman was asked his opinion on whether Alito or Thomas should recuse from the two January 6 cases the Supreme Court is expected to rule on by the end of June. Regarding Alito, Beerman said it would be difficult to judge bias solely based on his wife’s actions with the flags displayed outside their home. However, if Alito was personally involved, Beerman believes he should recuse himself since the flags represented a belief that the 2020 election was fraudulent, which is directly related to the issues in the January 6 cases.

When discussing Thomas, Beerman noted it would have been unimaginable in earlier times for a justice to remain on the court, given Thomas’ history of receiving luxury items and travel from wealthy conservative donors who may have matters before the court. However, Beerman said he has not seen evidence Thomas himself has expressed apparent bias regarding the insurrection cases. Nonetheless, Beerman stated Thomas should likely recuse from any cases involving prominent conservative causes, including the January 6 cases, due to his wife’s vocal support of efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

Beerman was also asked if Alito or Thomas could be forced to recuse if they refused. He agreed with Representative Jamie Raskin that there is legal precedent allowing the Supreme Court to force a recusal if a justice’s impartiality could reasonably be questioned. Beerman said he would advise Attorney General Merrick Garland to petition the court to do so, given the legal merits and to help restore public faith in the judiciary.

Regarding how the public may view the January 6 decisions if neither Alito nor Thomas recuse, Beerman predicted whichever side loses would likely see the rulings as rigged. However, he argued requiring recusals would set a healthy precedent for all justices to avoid partisan behavior that could undermine impartiality.

When asked for predictions on how the court may rule, Beerman said he would be very surprised if the justices endorsed the broad presidential immunity claim in one case. However, Beerman acknowledged the obstruction of Congress statute raises tricky legal questions, so outcomes in both cases are difficult to foresee.

 

 

Source BU Today