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Disorder in the Court!

Bill Press, Tribune Content Agency on

Everybody knows the government’s a total mess today: hopelessly divided and unable to get anything done. At least, that’s what they believe, because that’s all they read and hear about in the news. But that’s actually not the case.

Granted, political rhetoric is uglier than it’s ever been. Democrats and Republicans are in open warfare. But the truth is that, despite the political divisions, Congress and the White House have racked up an incredible record over the last three years: major, bipartisan legislation on Covid relief, infrastructure, gun control, same-sex marriage, veterans’ health, semi-conductor chips, and anti-Asian hate crimes, among others. All of which President Biden signed into law. In just the last month, the President and Congress passed bipartisan legislation to extend help to Ukraine and Israel and force the sale of TikTok.

So the reality is not what you might believe, reading the morning news. It may not be pretty, but the Congress and White House are doing just fine, thank you. There’s only one branch of government that’s totally out of control. It’s not the Executive or the Legislative branch. It’s the Supreme Court.

No wonder the public has so little confidence in the court. Last week, FiveThirtyEight.com reported only 34.5 percent of Americans approve of the court, a record low. But that number will probably sink even lower after the latest political scandal involving Justice Samuel Alito and January 6.

As first reported by the New York Times, complete with photographs and eyewitness accounts, for several days in January 2021, just before President Biden’s inauguration, an upside-down American flag – symbol of the “Stop the Steal” movement, which alleged that Biden stole the 2020 election – flew over Justice Alito’s Virginia home.

That was bad enough. But it just got worse. Now the Times also reports that a second flag adopted as a symbol of the “Stop the Steal” movement and prominently carried by those who attacked the Capitol on January 6 – the so-called “Appeal to Heaven” flag – flew over Alito’s New Jersey beach house in July-September 2023.

It's no secret that Alito’s one of the most conservative members of the court. But openly flying the colors of those who stormed the Capitol on January 6 is way, way over the line for any judge, let alone a member of the nation’s highest court. For two reasons.

First, because of the disrespect shown for the American flag. According to the U.S. Flag Code, the American flag must never be flown upside down, except as “a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property.” Second, because the Code of Conduct in place for United States judges (including the Supreme Court) states (1) “A Judge Should Refrain From Political Activity;” and (2) “A Judge Should Avoid Impropriety and the Appearance of Impropriety in All Activities.”

 

As soon as the first flag story broke, Alito rushed onto Fox News to blame his wife, proving he not only has no common sense, but no backbone, either. Which is nonsense. Alito knows that the legitimacy of the court, as shown above, depends on its members preserving at least the appearance of being above politics. As former White House Counsel Gregory Craig told me: “That flag was a symbol of those who, with violence, tried to reverse the outcome of a presidential election. If he disagreed with it, he would have taken it down on day one. He didn’t.”

Now comes the real test. Having already shown his bias by flying two flags of the “Stop the Steal” movement, there’s no way Samuel Alito should be allowed to rule on two January 6 cases now before the court: whether as former president, Donald Trump has total immunity for any official acts; and the scope of the obstruction of justice statute under which Trump is charged. Alito knows the words of the Federal Recusal Law: “Any justice, judge or magistrate of the United States shall disqualify himself in any proceeding in which his impartiality might reasonably be questioned.”

Note carefully: “any proceeding in which his impartiality might reasonably be questioned.” Under that rubric, Samuel Alito does not qualify. And neither does Clarence Thomas, whose wife was openly involved in efforts to overturn the election.

To save any reputation the Supreme Court has left, Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas must recuse themselves from any January 6 cases. If they refuse, Chief Justice John Roberts should publicly call on them to do so. If they still refuse, Congress should move to impeach them both.

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(Bill Press is host of The BillPressPod, and author of 10 books, including: “From the Left: My Life in the Crossfire.” His email address is: bill@billpress.com. Readers may also follow him on Twitter @billpresspod.)

©2024 Tribune Content Agency, LLC.



 

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