Chief justice rejects Senate Democrats' request for meeting after Alito flag flap

Washington — Chief Justice John Roberts rejected a request from Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats for a meeting to discuss ethics issues at the Supreme Court after Justice Samuel Alito came under scrutiny for flags flown outside his homes.

Roberts said in a letter Thursday to Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin and subcommittee head Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse that outside of ceremonial events, the chief justice rarely meets with lawmakers, even in public and with members of both parties.

“Separation of powers concerns and the importance of preserving judicial independence counsel against such appearances,” the chief justice wrote. “Moreover, the format proposed — a meeting with leaders of only one party who have expressed an interest in matters currently pending before the court — simply underscores that participating in such a meeting would be inadvisable.”

Durbin and Whitehouse, both Democrats, sent a letter to Roberts last week seeking a meeting to discuss ethics issues at the Supreme Court after the New York Times revealed in a pair of reports that an upside down flag flew outside of Alito’s Virginia home in January 2021 and an “Appeal to Heaven” flag was displayed outside his vacation house in New Jersey in the summer of 2023.

The presence of the flags led to backlash from Democrats, since both types of flags were carried by rioters who breached the U.S. Capitol building on Jan. 6, 2021, and have become associated with the “Stop the Steal” movement.

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