On Friday, May 31, 2024, the Florida Phoenix reported that U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts declined a request to meet with Democratic senators to discuss ethics rules and Justice Samuel Alito’s potential recusal in election-related cases.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin of Illinois and Subcommittee Chairman Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island had sent a letter to Roberts last week asking him to force Alito to recuse himself from upcoming decisions involving the 2020 presidential election and January 6th Capitol riots. The Democratic lawmakers also sought a meeting with Roberts to propose strengthening the Supreme Court’s codes of conduct.

However, in a two-paragraph response, Roberts denied the request for a meeting, citing concerns about separation of powers and judicial independence. The Chief Justice argued that justices rarely meet with legislators who have expressed interest in matters before the court. He added that meeting with members of only one party would be problematic.

The letter from Durbin and Whitehouse calling for Alito’s recusal stemmed from previous reports of politically-oriented flags displayed at two homes belonging to Alito. In the weeks following the 2020 election, Alito’s Virginia residence flew an American flag upside down, which his wife said was in response to a neighborhood dispute. Additionally, their New Jersey vacation home was photographed in summer 2023 with an “Appeal to Heaven” flag featuring a pine tree design, a symbol carried by some rioters during the January 6th riots.

This led the Democratic senators to question Alito’s objectivity in upcoming cases linked to the 2020 election and the Capitol attack. One such case from last month debated whether former President Donald Trump had immunity from prosecution over efforts to overturn the election results.

While declining the meeting, Roberts noted that Alito had individually responded to the committee on the issue of recusal. However, that letter was not publicly released. A spokesperson for Durbin rejected Roberts’ reasoning for not meeting, arguing the goal was simply to address public doubts about the Court’s integrity. The spokesperson said Durbin would continue pushing legislation for an ethics code covering all nine justices.

 

 

Source: Florida Phoenix