May 29, 2024

Whitehouse Reups Call for Passage of SCERT Act Following Alito Refusal to Recuse from January 6th Cases Despite MAGA Battle Flags Having Flown From His Homes

Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Chair of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Federal Courts, today responded to Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito’s letter addressed to Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Whitehouse, in which Justice Alito refused to recuse from cases related to the January 6th insurrection, despite the display of MAGA battle flags at two of his homes.

“Justice Alito’s story conflicts with the accounts of other people involved, and the Supreme Court — uniquely in all of government — has no mechanism for getting to the truth.  If the Court won’t create one, then we need to, and my SCERT Act would do that,” said Whitehouse.

Two reports from The New York Times indicate that MAGA battle flags carried by insurrectionists at the Capitol on January 6th were flown at two of Justice Alito’s residences.  In a letter sent last week to Chief Justice John Roberts, Durbin and Whitehouse called on the Chief Justice to implement an enforceable code of conduct at the Court, and requested a meeting with the Chief Justice to discuss the Supreme Court’s worsening ethics crisis.  The letter also requested that the Chief Justice ensure Justice Alito recuses from cases related to the January 6th insurrection.

Whitehouse’s Supreme Court Ethics, Recusal, and Transparency (SCERT) Act was advanced by the Senate Judiciary Committee last July.  The bill would require Supreme Court justices to adopt a binding code of conduct, create a mechanism to investigate alleged violations of the code of conduct and other laws, improve disclosure and transparency when a justice has a connection to a party or amicus before the Court, end the practice of justices ruling on their own conflicts of interests, and require justices to explain their recusal decisions to the public. 

Congress has an appropriate and well-established role in oversight of the judiciary and updating ethics laws that apply to federal officials, including justices and judges.  Congress passed the Ethics in Government Act and judicial recusal law, which expressly apply to the justices.  Congress also created through statute the Judicial Conference, which administers financial disclosure laws for the entire judiciary.

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Meaghan McCabe, (202) 224-2921