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Justice Alito’s House flew flag upside down after Trump’s ‘Stop the Steal’ claims, report says

FILE - Associate Justice Samuel Alito joins other members of the Supreme Court as they pose for a new group portrait, Oct. 7, 2022, in the Supreme Court building in Washington.  An upside-down American flag, a symbol associated with former President Donald Trump's false claims of election fraud, was flown outside the home of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito in January 2021, The New York Times reported on July 16 may.
FILE – Associate Justice Samuel Alito joins other members of the Supreme Court as they pose for a new group portrait, Oct. 7, 2022, in the Supreme Court building in Washington. An upside-down American flag, a symbol associated with former President Donald Trump’s false claims of election fraud, was flown outside the home of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito in January 2021, The New York Times reported on July 16 may.J. Scott Applewhite/AP

WASHINGTON — An upside-down American flag, a symbol associated with former President Donald Trump’s false claims of election fraud, was flown outside the home of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito in January 2021, The New York Times reported Thursday.

A photo obtained and published by the newspaper shows the flag flying on January 17, 2021, days after Trump supporters stormed the US Capitol on January 6, 2021. Dozens of rioters carried inverted flags of the same manner and chanted slogans such as “Stop terrorism”. Fly.”

The report could raise concerns about Alito’s impartiality as the court considers two major cases related to the attack, including charges against the rioters and whether Trump has immunity from prosecution for election interference.

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This comes as another conservative justice, Clarence Thomas, has ignored calls to recuse himself from 2020 election-related cases over his wife, Ginni Thomas’s, support for Trump and as public confidence in the Supreme Court is weakened. at its lowest level in at least 50 years. Legal experts said the flag clearly violated ethics rules established to avoid even the appearance of bias.

As the flag flew, the court was still considering whether to take up cases related to the 2020 election. It ultimately dismissed them due to dissent from three conservative justices, including Alito, appointed by Republican President George W. .Bush. He wrote that the court’s consideration of these cases would have no impact on the 2020 election but would “provide invaluable guidance for future elections.”

Alito, for his part, acknowledged the flag’s presence at his home in Alexandria, Virginia, but said it was placed there by his wife.

“I had no involvement in the display of the flag,” Alito said in an emailed statement to the newspaper. “It was briefly placed by Ms. Alito in response to a neighbor’s use of objectionable and personally insulting language on street signs.”

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Martha-Ann Alito had argued with another family in the neighborhood over an anti-Trump sign on their lawn, and neighbors also interpreted the flag as a political statement, the Times reported. It is unclear how long the flag flew.

Codes of judicial ethics emphasize the need for judges to be independent, avoiding political statements or opinions on issues they might be called upon to decide. The Supreme Court did not long have its own ethics code, but it adopted one in November 2023 in the face of sustained criticism over undisclosed travel and gifts from wealthy benefactors to some justices. The code, however, lacks means of enforcement.

Amanda Frost, a law professor at the University of Virginia, told the newspaper that flying the flag upside down is “like putting a ‘Stop the Steal’ sign in your yard, which is a problem if you decide to have elections.

Even if it was placed by his wife or someone else living in the house, “he shouldn’t have it in his yard as a message to the world,” she said.

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The Supreme Court warned its own employees against public demonstrations indicating partisan leanings, the newspaper reported. The court did not answer questions about whether these rules applied to judges.

The American Flag Code states that the American flag should not be flown upside down “except as a signal of extreme distress in cases of extreme danger to life or property.” It has been used as a symbol of protest on both the left and the right on a range of issues over the decades. He became a symbol of Trump’s “Stop the Steal” campaign as he spread false claims that the election he lost to President Joe Biden was stolen.