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(Photo / Alex Wong)

 

Justice Samuel Alito refused Democrats’ calls to recuse himself from pending cases Wednesday over two flags flown on his property, which they argued created an “appearance of impropriety” and doubt about his impartiality.

After The New York Times published stories about an upside-down American flag briefly flown outside his Virginia home and an “Appeal to Heaven” flag flown for a time at their vacation home, which it claimed were both symbols associated with Trump supporters in January 2021, Democratic Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and Dick Durbin of Illinois urged Alito to recuse himself from cases relating to Jan. 6 or the 2020 election. They sent a letter to Chief Justice John Roberts requesting a meeting to discuss “additional steps to address the Supreme Court’s ethics crisis.”

“A reasonable person who is not motivated by political or ideological considerations or a desire to affect the outcome of Supreme Court cases would conclude that this event does not meet the applicable standard for recusal,” Alito responded Wednesday. “I am therefore duty-bound to reject your recusal request.”

The Supreme Court is expected to release decisions this month on Trump’s appeal of his bid to dismiss his election interference case based on presidential immunity and a case considering the scope of a statute used to charge Jan. 6 defendants.

Alito cited the section of the Supreme Court’s code of conduct governing disqualification, noting the incidents “do not meet the conditions for recusal.” Both flags were raised by his wife, he noted, a private citizen who “possesses the same First Amendment rights as every other American.”

“She makes her own decisions, and I have always respected her right to do so,” Alito wrote. “She has made many sacrifices to accommodate my service on the Supreme Court, including the insult of having to endure numerous, loud, obscene, and personally insulting protests in front of our home that continue to this day and now threaten to escalate.”

“A house on the street displayed a sign attacking her personally, and a man who was living in the house at the time trailed her all the way down the street and berated her in my presence using foul language, including what I regard as the vilest epithet that can be addressed to a woman,” Alito wrote.

He further explained that neither he nor his wife were aware of the “Appeal to Heaven” flag’s association with the “Stop the Steal Movement.” The flag was flown during the American Revolution and commissioned under George Washington’s authority.

“The use of an old historic flag by a new group does not necessarily drain that flag of all other meanings,” Alito continue

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