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Other voices: An ‘obligation’ for Justice Alito

Congratulations to Chief Justice John Roberts, who responded to importuning Senators by letting Justice Samuel Alito respond for himself. Justice Alito’s reply on Wednesday: He has “an obligation to sit” on cases under the Supreme Court’s code of conduct.

Sens. Dick Durbin and Sheldon Whitehouse, the bully boys of the Judiciary Committee, wrote the Chief Justice last week demanding a meeting and that Justice Alito recuse himself from hearing cases related to the 2020 election or Donald Trump.

As the Senators know, the Court’s code stipulates that individual Justices make their own recusal decisions. Thus the Chief was right to let Justice Alito respond for himself, if he chose. His letter gives the Senators more courtesy than they deserve given their clear partisan motivation and their attempt to violate the separation of powers.

Justice Alito cites the Court’s code of conduct provision that “A Justice is presumed impartial and has an obligation to sit unless disqualified.” And a Justice should disqualify himself only when “the Justice’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned, that is, where an unbiased and reasonable person who is aware of all relevant circumstances would doubt that the Justice could fairly discharge his or her duties.”

The two Senators are the most biased people on the planet regarding the Court. Their complaint is that a pair of flags flown at Justice Alito’s homes suggest partiality.

But the Justice explains in some detail that the decision to fly the two flags was made by his wife, who has her own mind and right to free speech, and that the Justice had nothing to do with her decisions.

Martha-Ann Alito “makes her own decisions, and I have always respected her right to do so,” Justice Alito writes. “She has made many sacrifices to accommodate my service on the Supreme Court, including the insult of having to endure numerous, loud, obscene, and personally insulting protests in front of our home that continue to this day and now threaten to escalate.”

Who can doubt this given the tenor of the times and the threats against the Justices from the likes of Sen. Whitehouse and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer? One maniac stalked the home of Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

“A reasonable person who is not motivated by political or ideological considerations or a desire to affect the outcome of Supreme Court cases would conclude that this event does not meet the applicable standard for recusal,” writes Justice Alito. “I am therefore duty-bound to reject your recusal request.”

Congratulations to Justice Alito for responding with cool reason to an unreasonable demand. And to the Chief Justice for respecting the Court’s code of conduct in not responding for his colleague.

Maybe the Senators will read the code–not that they care about anything except smearing the Justices.

— The Wall Street Journal

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