Upside-Down US Flag Flew at Home of Justice Samuel Alito After 2020 Election

 An upside-down American flag, a symbol adopted by some supporters of former President Donald Trump who disputed the legitimacy of President Joe Biden’s 2020 victory, was displayed outside the home of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito after the election, according to a report by The New York Times on Thursday.

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The incident, which took place in January 2021 at Alito’s residence in Alexandria, Virginia, is likely to intensify scrutiny on the justice. This revelation may prompt calls for Alito to recuse himself from several high-profile cases related to the 2020 election and the subsequent attack on the US Capitol, including deliberations on whether Trump can claim immunity from federal election subversion charges.

In an emailed statement to The Times, Justice Alito denied any personal involvement in the flag’s display, attributing it to his wife. “It was briefly placed by Mrs. Alito in response to a neighbor’s use of objectionable and personally insulting language on yard signs,” he said.

The use of an upside-down flag became a notable symbol of the "Stop the Steal" movement, which falsely claimed widespread election fraud in Biden’s win. The flag was prominently displayed by participants during the January 6, 2021, Capitol riot. The Times reported that it was unclear how long the flag was flown outside Alito’s home.

This report comes at a time when the Supreme Court faces considerable public criticism. Justice Clarence Thomas has similarly been scrutinized for his wife Ginni Thomas’s involvement in efforts to overturn the election results and her attendance at Trump’s rally preceding the Capitol attack. These developments have led to calls for greater ethical oversight of the justices.

In response to the series of ethical concerns, the Supreme Court adopted a code of conduct last year, aiming to guide the justices in avoiding political activity and maintaining impartiality. However, this code remains nonbinding and lacks enforcement mechanisms.

Legal experts argue that symbols like the upside-down flag can undermine public confidence in the judiciary. James Sample, a professor at Hofstra Law School, commented, “Either the gesture was trivial pettiness and ought to be beneath the dignity of the court, or it was intended as meaningful symbolism, in which case it is a real problem.”

Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, speaking on MSNBC, expressed his concerns, stating, “Justice Alito should not sit on any of these cases involving Donald Trump. He ought to recuse himself.” Blumenthal emphasized the potential damage to the court’s credibility due to such incidents.

With upcoming cases that may significantly impact the political landscape, including decisions on presidential immunity and other election-related matters, the display of the upside-down flag at Justice Alito's home underscores the ongoing tension and partisan divisions affecting the judiciary.