Chief Justice John Roberts

Chief Justice Roberts Declines Democrat Senators’ Request to Discuss the Manufactured “Scandal” Over Justice Alito’s Flags

DCNF(DCNF)—Chief Justice John Roberts on Thursday rejected a request by Democratic senators to meet and discuss their claims about ethics issues on the Supreme Court, suggesting it would be unwise to meet with members of only one political party.

Democratic Sens. Dick Durbin of Illinois and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, who are urging Justice Samuel Alito to recuse himself from cases relating to the 2020 election or Jan. 6 following two New York Times reports about flags flown on his property, asked Roberts on May 23 for a meeting to discuss “additional steps to address the Supreme Court’s ethics crisis.” Roberts told the senators he must “respectfully decline” the meeting request, citing “separation of powers concerns” and “the importance of judicial independence” while suggesting it would be “inadvisable” to meet only with members of one political party.

“In regard to questions concerning any Justice’s participation in pending cases, the Members of the Supreme Court recently reaffirmed the practice we have followed for 235 years pursuant to which individual Justices decide recusal issues,” Roberts wrote, making a reference to the ethics code the Supreme Court adopted in November 2023.

“It is my understanding that Justice Alito has sent you a letter addressing this issue,” he continued.

Alito rejected the two Democratic senators’ request for him to recuse himself in a letter Wednesday, noting the upside-down American flag briefly displayed outside his home and the Revolution-era “Appeal to Heaven” flag flown for a time at his vacation home were both raised by his wife, a private citizen who “possesses the same First Amendment rights as every other American.”

“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 wrote Wednesday.

Alito reiterated that his wife displayed the upside-down flag as a sign of distress after a “nasty neighborhood dispute” he was not involved in. A neighbor berated her “using foul language” and a house on the street displayed “a sign attacking her personally,” Alito wrote.

Roberts referenced his response from April 2023 declining to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee, explaining again that “only on rare occasions in our Nation’s history has a sitting Chief Justice met with legislators, even in a public setting (such as a Committee hearing) with members of both major political parties present.” He took issue with the format of the senators’ latest proposal.

“Moreover, the format proposed — a meeting with leaders of only one party who have expressed an interest in matters currently pending before the Court — simply underscores that participating in such a meeting would be inadvisable,” Roberts continued.

Roberts copied Republican Sens. Lindsay Graham of South Carolina and John Kennedy of Louisiana on the letter.

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