On Thursday, June 27, 2024, The News & Observer reported that a flag allegedly connected to the January 6th insurrection was flown at a beach home belonging to North Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice Paul Newby’s wife.

The flag, known as the “Appeal to Heaven” or Pine Tree Flag, has historical roots in the Revolutionary War but has recently been seen at the US Capitol riot on January 6th, 2021 and associated with Christian conservative movements. It was also flown at a home belonging to US Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, leading to calls for him to recuse himself from cases related to former President Donald Trump.

According to the article, photos obtained by The N&O showed the flag flying outside a Pine Knoll Shores beach home owned by an LLC belonging to Newby’s wife, Macon Newby, on May 23rd – the day after a New York Times story broke about Alito’s flag. A tipster who wished to remain anonymous shared the photos, which The N&O was able to verify through metadata and property records.

In a statement to The N&O, Newby said he was gifted the flag prior to January 6th and flies it on national holidays like Memorial Day to represent its Revolutionary War history and as “a statement of our faith.” However, the flag has taken on new meanings in recent years tied to political movements.

Charles Geyh, an Indiana University law professor specializing in judicial ethics, said flying the flag likely doesn’t violate the judicial conduct code but could undermine the perception of impartiality in the judiciary. “A good judge recognizes they must act in a way that promotes impartiality…that is undermined by essentially running their ideological perspective up a flagpole,” Geyh stated.

Judges in North Carolina are permitted some political involvement as elected officials but are still bound by conduct rules focusing on impartiality. While flying a politically charged flag may not directly violate rules, some argue it calls a judge’s judgment into question.

The article also examines Newby’s removal of two judges – one as chief judge and another as top district court judge – without public explanation. It raises transparency questions as Newby, who appoints six of 14 members to the body investigating judicial complaints, oversees the entire court system as chief justice.

The flag incident spotlights issues of perceived bias and political entanglements in North Carolina’s judiciary. It remains to be seen how the chief justice and conduct commission will address these latest developments involving the state’s highest judicial official.

 

 

Source: The News & Observer