On Saturday, May 25, 2024, Newsweek reported that a federal judge criticized Justice Samuel Alito for flying flags outside his home that were seen as gestures of support for former President Donald Trump’s unfounded claims of election fraud.

In a guest essay published on Friday in The New York Times, U.S. District Judge Michael Ponsor of Massachusetts called Alito “foolish” and said displaying the American flag upside down last year just before President Joe Biden’s inauguration was “dumb.” Ponsor, a senior judge appointed by former President Bill Clinton, wrote that any reasonable judge would have known flying the flag in an inverted position at that time was improper.

Last week, The Times revealed a photo showing Alito had the inverted flag hung outside his house in January 2021, less than two weeks after Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol building in an attempt to overturn Trump’s election loss. Despite lacking evidence, Trump has insisted the 2020 election results were invalid due to widespread voter fraud.

In response to the photo, Alito told The Times that his wife put up the flag “briefly” to protest “objectionable and personally insulting language” used on a neighbor’s yard signs. However, Ponsor argued in his essay that if his own wife strongly advocated a position publicly in a case before him, he would have had to recuse himself due to an appearance of bias.

More recently, an “Appeal to Heaven” flag seen flying at Alito’s summer home in 2023 has further raised questions, as that symbol has been used in recent years by some Trump backers, including those involved in the January 6th insurrection, according to The Times. Ponsor wrote that such actions by a Supreme Court Justice erode public trust in the judiciary’s impartiality.

Judicial improprieties, like the accusations against Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, and Alito involving conflicts of interest, financial issues, and undisclosed relationships, have significantly decreased public faith in the Supreme Court, according to a recent poll. Retired Federal Judge John E. Jones III told Newsweek that respect for the judiciary has “cratered” as its impartiality has been repeatedly called into question.

In his Times essay, Ponsor focused on the unethical nature of Alito showing apparent support for Trump’s debunked claims rather than any legal issues. He emphasized that public trust in the courts relies on judges appearing free from bias. With Alito’s flags raising recusal demands, the Supreme Court’s integrity and legitimacy could be further damaged if it does not take steps to restore confidence in its impartiality.

 

 

Source: Newsweek