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Flag Day Comes Early This Year

Flag Day is actually June 14, but Associate Justice Samuel Alito seems to like celebrating year round. The United States Flag Code (4 U.S.C. ยง5 et seq.) states that the flag should never be flown upside down, except to signal great danger. The Stop the Steal movement has adopted the upside-down flag as its emblem, to show that the country is in grave danger. When photos circulated of an upside-down flag flying at the Alitos' house, for at least several days, Sam used the now-common "blame the wife" defense to try to get off the hook. Apparently, he either never noticed that she was doing this or didn't care. He took a lot of flak for that.

Now it has come out that the upside-down flag at home isn't the only flag the Alitos have used to express their sympathy with right-wing groups. At their beach house in New Jersey, the Alitos have flown the "Appeal to Heaven" Pine Tree flag:

Appeal to heaven flag at Samuel Alito's beach house

The good news is that the Appeal to Heaven flag is not solely associated with the Jan. 6 rioters. The bad news is that it is associated with Christian Nationalists—you know, those folks who reject the separation of church and state in the Constitution and want to turn America into Iran, with small modifications (e.g., the president is not required to have a beard). Since there were plenty of Christian Nationalists present on Jan. 6, this flag is among the many that were flown during that event, so it's kind of a two-fer for the Alitos.

This second incident has led many people to call for Alito to recuse himself from cases involving the Jan. 6 rioters, Christian Nationalism, and Donald Trump, especially whether Trump is above the law. In particular, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, released this statement after the second flag story broke: "This incident is yet another example of apparent ethical misconduct by a sitting justice, and it adds to the Court's ongoing ethical crisis. For the good of our country and the Court, Justice Alito must recuse himself immediately from cases related to the 2020 election and the January 6th insurrection. And the Chief Justice must see how this is damaging the Court and immediately enact an enforceable code of conduct." Durbin has long supported a bill requiring the Supreme Court to adopt a mandatory code of ethics, something it has thus far refused to do.

Durbin isn't the only member of Congress who sees Alito's behavior as disgraceful. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) said "What we are seeing here is an extraordinary breach of not just the trust and the stature of the Supreme Court, but we are seeing a fundamental challenge to our democracy." She has called on the Senate to investigate Alito. If the Democrats take the House in November, an investigation by the House Judiciary Committee is very likely.

Between Alito and Clarence Thomas, both of whom routinely accept expensive gifts and vacations from people who care deeply about cases before the Court, public trust in the Supreme Court is at a near all-time low. Currently 39% of Americans approve of the job the Supreme Court is doing and 61% disapprove. For a branch that is supposed to be above politics, this is not how it is supposed to be. Here are the approve/disapprove scores since 2020:

Supreme Court approval/disapproval 2020-2024

Alito has ignored Durbin and all other calls to recuse. He is clearly thinking: "What are they going to do about it?" However, if the Democrats get the trifecta in November, they could do a lot next year, including impeaching Alito, passing a law requiring a mandatory code of ethics (with sanctions), and stripping the Court of jurisdiction in some areas. (V)

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