Alito tells congressional Democrats he won’t recuse over flags

Justice Samuel Alito Stands Firm on Recusal, Rejects Calls from Democrats Over Flags

Following demands from congressional Democrats, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito has resolutely refused to recuse himself in two cases involving former President Donald Trump due to the presence of two flags that were flown outside his homes. In letters addressed to House and Senate Democrats, Alito stated that he was not involved in the flying of the flags, and that nothing about the incidents met the Supreme Court’s recusal standards.

The flag-related controversy stems from reports in the New York Times detailing an upside-down American flag at Alito’s Virginia home and a separate "Appeal to Heaven" flag at his vacation home. The Democrats argued that these incidents constituted an appearance of impropriety, necessitating Alito’s recusal from any matters pertaining to the Jan. 6 Capitol riot or the 2020 election.

However, in his letters, Alito emphasized that his wife, who he claims had sole interest in the flags, was responsible for their display. According to Alito, his wife, Martha-Ann, had originally flown the upside-down American flag outside their Virginia home in response to a neighborhood dispute in which Alito claims he had no involvement. The flag was reportedly taken down after Alito asked his wife to do so, and she eventually agreed.

Similarly, Alito stated that the "Appeal to Heaven" flag was also flown by Martha-Ann and was not intended to associate herself with any political group. He affirmed that his wife is a private citizen who makes her own decisions and enjoys the same First Amendment rights as all Americans.

The Alito family’s position on the flag incidents dates back to 2021, when they were confronted outside their home by a Washington Post reporter, who had been tipped off by a neighbor about the upside-down flag. During this encounter, Martha-Ann Alito reportedly yelled, "It’s an international signal of distress!" when asked about the flag. The Washington Post decided not to publish the story at the time, as it pertained to an ongoing neighborhood dispute that did not directly involve Justice Alito.

In response to the Democrats’ request for recusal, Alito made it clear that he would not step down from the cases before the Supreme Court concerning Trump’s claim of presidential immunity and the Jan. 6 attack. He reiterated his duty to uphold the law and maintain his judicial impartiality.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin and subcommittee head Sheldon Whitehouse had previously requested a meeting with Chief Justice John Roberts and urged him to take steps to ensure Alito recused himself from the cases. A second letter was sent to a group of House Democrats who called for Alito to step aside.

This latest development further intensifies the political tensions surrounding the Supreme Court, as the justices grapple with high-stakes cases that could have significant ramifications for American democracy.