On Thursday, May 30, 2024, CBC reported that U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito denied requests for him to recuse himself from upcoming cases related to Donald Trump and the January 6th Capitol riot. At the center of the issue were flags that had been flown on properties owned by Justice Alito and his wife in 2021 and 2023.

Justice Alito stated in letters to Congress that in 2021, his wife Martha-Ann had briefly displayed an upside-down American flag over their home in an apparent dispute with anti-Trump neighbors. While he asked her to take it down, she initially refused. An upside-down flag has become a symbol used by supporters of Trump’s unfounded claims of election fraud in 2020. Additionally, in 2023 Martha-Ann flew an “Appeal to Heaven” flag at their beach house in New Jersey. This historic flag from the American Revolution has more recently been adopted by some associating with the “Stop the Steal” movement and January 6th riot.

Justice Alito asserted he was unaware of any connection between the “Appeal to Heaven” flag and movements to overturn the 2020 election. He said the decisions to fly the flags were made solely by his wife, and that he respects her right to make her own choices.

Critics argue Alito should recuse himself from upcoming cases that could impact legal matters related to Donald Trump and the January 6th defendants. However, as CBC reported, the only potential consequence for not recusing would be impeachment by Congress – an unprecedented event in American history.

The article outlined some of the key contexts around the flags at issue. An upside-down American flag can signal distress, while the “Appeal to Heaven” banner originated in the Revolutionary War but has more recently been adopted by some patriot and Christian nationalist groups. It noted comments from Republican Representative Mike Johnson saying he was unaware of any connection between the flag and efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

In closing, CBC discussed ethics rules for Supreme Court justices, which focus on independence and avoiding political stances. While a code of conduct was adopted in 2023, Republicans remain opposed to imposing stricter standards. The only relevant criterion for recusal is impartiality being reasonably questioned. But as Justice Alito views the matters as decisions of his wife alone, he does not feel recusal is required, leaving impeachment as critics’ sole option for consequence.

 

 

Source: CBC