The Road Most Traveled

Published: June 14, 2024

By Jim Lichtman
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When it was reported that Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito refused to recuse himself from cases concerning the January 6 insurrection because he had far-right flags flying over two of his homes that supported the “Stop the Steal” campaign, Alito had a ready response to Congress.

“I had nothing whatsoever to do with flying the flags. My wife is fond of flying flags. . . . I was not even aware of the upside-down flag until it was called to my attention. As soon as I saw it, I asked my wife to take it down, but for several days, she refused.”

As the highest in the land, the court that ultimately rules on issues that affect us all, you would expect a certain standard of behavior. Impartiality is supposed to be the gold standard of their decision-making. Apparently, Justice Alito was absent the day they had ethics training.

When it came to the flag incident, Justice Alito ceded his decision-making to his wife, Martha (who also missed the ethics memo when she moved to Washington.)

And because Alito lacked the courage to stand up to his wife, Democrats in Congress asked that he recuse himself from all decisions regarding the January 6 case and the immunity issue that former President Donald Trump claimed in his actions on that day as well as the classified documents case.

Alito refused to recuse.

Today, right now, at this moment, the highest court in the land has no binding ethics code. Worse still: each member gets to determine for themselves if they will recuse from a case when facing any possible conflict of interest.

For awhile, Alito’s brush fire of unethical conduct had been buried by other stories . . . until now.

Liberal activist and filmmaker Lauren Windsor attended a reception and dinner held at the prestigious Historical Society. Attendees get the rare privilege of rubbing elbows with the Supreme Court justices. In Windsor’s case, she secretly recorded interviews with Alito and Chief Justice John Roberts. The conversations were revealing. Rolling Stone magazine obtained a copy of the recordings and reported the conversations.

Posing as a conservative, Windsor said to Alito, “I don’t know that we can negotiate with the left in the way that needs to happen for the polarization to end. I think that it’s a matter of, like, winning.”

“I think you’re probably right,” Alito responded. “On one side or the other — one side or the other is going to win. I don’t know. I mean, there can be a way of working — a way of living together peacefully. Still, it’s difficult, you know, because there are differences on fundamental things that really can’t be compromised. They really can’t be compromised. So it’s not like you are going to split the difference.”

“People in this country who believe in God have got to keep fighting for that,” Windsor adds, “to return our country to a place of godliness.”

“I agree with you,” Alito says. “I agree with you.”

For the record, Justice Alito wrote the majority opinion for the Dobbs decision which effectively overturned Roe v. Wade, the 50-year old decision which allowed women the right to an abortion.

Windsor also interviewed Chief Justice Roberts at the event.

As reported by Rolling Stone, “Pressed on whether the court has an obligation to put the country on a more ‘moral path,’ Roberts turns the tables on his questioner: ‘Would you want me to be in charge of putting the nation on a more moral path?’ He argues instead: ‘That’s for people we elect. That’s not for lawyers.’ Presented with the claim that America is a ‘Christian nation’ and that the Supreme Court should be ‘guiding us in that path,’ Roberts again disagrees, citing the perspectives of ‘Jewish and Muslim friends,’ before asserting, ‘It’s not our job to do that. It’s our job to decide the cases the best we can.’”

While Roberts appears to be traveling the professional, unbiased path, Alito and his colleague Clarence Thomas are following the road most traveled and that has made all the difference in our perception of the high court.

You remember Justice Thomas? His wife Virginia “pressed 29 Republican state lawmakers in Arizona — 27 more than previously known — to set aside Joe Biden’s popular vote victory and ‘choose’ presidential electors, according to emails obtained by The Washington Post.”

Now comes word of yet another ethical abuse by Thomas. He neglected to report three more private jet trips provided by GOP donor Harlan Crow.

The court needs a robust, ethical code, NOW; one where actions are examined and ruled on by, perhaps a three-judge panel of Federal judges that can order recusal and, if necessary, consequences for justices who believe they are above ethical conduct.

As for these latest incidents? Chief Justice Roberts needs to sanction both Alito and Thomas . . . NOW!

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