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Progressives urge Alito recusal from Jan. 6 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court


Progressives urge Alito recusal from Jan. 6 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court

Jun 05, 2024 | 4:02 pm ET
By Ashley Murray
Progressives urge Alito recusal from Jan. 6 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court
Democratic Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington speaks during a press conference outside the U.S. Supreme Court Wednesday, June 5, 2024. Democratic Rep. Hank Johnson of Georgia, at right, stands waiting to approach the microphone. The lawmakers joined progressive groups to urge Justice Samuel Alito to recuse himself from cases related to the Jan. 6, 2021, U.S. Capitol attack. Both Jayapal and Johnson have introduced bills related to Supreme Court ethics. (Ashley Murray/States Newsroom)

WASHINGTON — Progressive lawmakers and organizers on Wednesday urged U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito to recuse himself from cases related to the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, and to testify before Congress about two flags sympathetic to insurrectionists that were displayed outside his two homes.

With the Supreme Court as their backdrop, a group of roughly 20 people held signs reading “Investigate Alito” and decried a “five-alarm fire consuming democracy,” as Democratic Rep. Hank Johnson of Georgia put it.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington, who chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said, “Chief Justice (John) Roberts and Justice Alito need to testify publicly and under oath about the flag-waving incidents and how the court handled it.”

Johnson and Jayapal have respectively introduced bills aimed at imposing term limits on Supreme Court justices and mandating an enforceable code of ethics for the nation’s highest bench.

Johnson also joined Democratic U.S. Rep. Dan Goldman of New York Tuesday in introducing a bill to establish an independent investigative body focused on Supreme Court ethics.

Two flags

An upside-down U.S. flag hung outside Alito’s Alexandria, Virginia, home just days after former President Donald Trump’s supporters breached the Capitol, according to photos obtained by The New York Times.

An upside-down American flag is generally considered a sign of distress or protest across the political spectrum.

The Times also broke the story that an “Appeal to Heaven” flag waved above the justice’s Long Island Beach, New Jersey, home during the summer of 2023. The white flag featuring a pine tree can be seen in photos of the Jan. 6 riot, when Trump supporters overwhelmed the Capitol, attacking and injuring police officers with flagpoles, bear spray and other improvised weapons.

In a May 29 letter to lawmakers, Alito said the flags were flown by his wife and that he would refuse calls to recuse himself from cases related to Jan. 6.

“My wife is fond of flying flags. I am not,” he wrote to Democratic Sens. Dick Durbin of Illinois, who chairs the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, who chairs the Judiciary Subcommittee on Federal Courts.

Both senators, who requested a meeting with Chief Justice Roberts about Alito, have championed an ethics bill titled the Supreme Court Ethics, Recusal and Transparency Act, which advanced out of committee along party lines in July 2023 but has not received a floor vote.

Supreme Court rulings on the way

Supreme Court opinions are expected this month in two Jan. 6, cases — one involving a former police officer who breached the Capitol and is seeking to have an obstruction charge dropped. The decision could affect hundreds of Jan. 6 defendant cases, and the 2020 election interference case against Trump, who faces the same obstruction charge.

The court is also set to decide whether Trump is immune from four federal criminal counts alleging he schemed to overturn the 2020 presidential election results and knowingly spread false information that whipped his supporters into rioting on Jan. 6.

Trump appointed three of the current sitting Supreme Court justices: conservatives Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett.

At Wednesday’s demonstration, one of the leaders, Christina Harvey, executive director of the progressive advocacy group Stand Up America, said, “I don’t know about you, but I prefer Supreme Court justices who fly their American flags right side up.”

Harvey’s group was one of several outside the Supreme Court, including Alliance for Justice, whose program director for justice Jake Faleschini also called for Justice Clarence Thomas to resign. An investigation by ProPublica revealed the justice received gifts from and traveled with major Republican donors.

“Even Justice Roberts has abandoned his duties. He doesn’t appear either willing or capable of addressing his colleagues’ corruption and abuses of power,” Faleschini said.

More flag displays

The upside-down U.S. flag and “Appeal to Heaven” flag have been displayed in other locations as well.

On Friday, the conservative Heritage Foundation flew an upside-down U.S. flag outside its Washington, D.C., office following Trump’s guilty verdict in New York on hush money charges, according to reporting from NPR and photos from The Associated Press.

U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson of Louisiana, one of the leading voices in the legal movement to overturn the 2020 presidential election results, displays the “Appeal to Heaven” flag outside his congressional office, according to reporting by The Associated Press.

The flag has also been spotted outside the office of GOP Rep. Glenn Grothman of Wisconsin.