May 17, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Durbin calls on Alito to recuse himself from 2020 election cases after NYT report

Justice Alito, wearing a robe, blue shirt and red tie, smiles. The shoulders of two other justices are seen behind him.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito faces a call for recusal. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Senate Judiciary Chair Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) called on Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito to recuse himself from cases related to the 2020 election after the New York Times' Jodi Kantor reported that an upside-down American flag flew outside of his house in 2021. The flag was a widely recognized symbol of the "Stop the Steal" movement.

Why it matters: The recusal demand comes as public trust in the nation's highest court has been declining and the court is slated to issue seismic rulings this term related to former President Trump's efforts to overturn his loss to President Biden in 2020.

  • The flag outside of Alito's Alexandria, Virginia, home, identified by neighbors, was up on Jan. 17, 2021, days away from Biden's inauguration and after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.
  • The Supreme Court did not immediately respond to Axios' requests for comment.

Driving the news: The flag "clearly creates the appearance of bias," Durbin wrote in a statement.

  • "The court is in an ethical crisis of its own making," Durbin added, "and Justice Alito and the rest of the court should be doing everything in their power to regain public trust."

Context: The Supreme Court heard oral arguments over whether Trump is immune from prosecution for his role on Jan. 6.

  • The court put his federal electoral interference trial on hold.

Friction point: The flag was up while the court was determining whether it would hear a 2020 election case, the NYT reported.

Zoom in: Alito's wife, Martha-Ann Alito, hung the flag upside down, the justice told Fox News host Shannon Bream.

  • The action was in response to an altercation with a neighbor who put up a sign that read "F--- Trump." The neighbor blamed her for the Jan. 6 attack.

Flashback: The court's ethics were questioned last year after reporting that Justice Clarence Thomas accepted luxury trips from an influential Republican megadonor, Harlan Crow.

  • Durbin re-upped demand for the passage of the Supreme Court Ethics, Recusal, and Transparency Act on Friday. It would require justices to adopt a binding code of conduct with a mechanism for investigating alleged violations.

State of play: The Supreme Court adopted a code of ethics for its justices in November.

  • It prevents justices from knowingly using the prestige of their office to "advance the private interests of the justice or others."
  • Alito previously refused a call for recusal by Senate Democrats in a tax-related case.

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