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At Justice Alito’s Home, a ‘Cease the Steal’ Image on Show

At Justice Alitos House a Stop the Steal Symbol on Display


After the 2020 presidential election, as some Trump supporters falsely claimed that President Biden had stolen the workplace, a lot of them displayed a startling image exterior their properties, on their automobiles and in on-line posts: an upside-down American flag.

One of many properties flying an inverted flag throughout that point was the residence of Supreme Court docket Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., in Alexandria, Va., in accordance with images and interviews with neighbors.

The upside-down flag was aloft on Jan. 17, 2021, the pictures confirmed. President Donald J. Trump’s supporters, together with some brandishing the identical image, had rioted on the Capitol a bit over per week earlier than. Mr. Biden’s inauguration was three days away. Alarmed neighbors snapped images, a few of which had been just lately obtained by The New York Instances. Phrase of the flag filtered again to the court docket, individuals who labored there stated in interviews.

Whereas the flag was up, the court docket was nonetheless contending with whether or not to listen to a 2020 election case, with Justice Alito on the losing end of that call. In coming weeks, the justices will rule on two climactic circumstances involving the storming of the Capitol on Jan. 6, together with whether or not Mr. Trump has immunity for his actions. Their choices will form how accountable he could be held for making an attempt to overturn the final presidential election and his chances for re-election within the upcoming one.

“I had no involvement in any way within the flying of the flag,” Justice Alito stated in an emailed assertion to The Instances. “It was briefly positioned by Mrs. Alito in response to a neighbor’s use of objectionable and personally insulting language on yard indicators.”

Judicial specialists stated in interviews that the flag was a transparent violation of ethics guidelines, which search to keep away from even the looks of bias, and will sow doubt about Justice Alito’s impartiality in circumstances associated to the election and the Capitol riot.

The mere impression of political opinion could be a downside, the ethics specialists stated. “It is perhaps his partner or another person dwelling in his house, however he shouldn’t have it in his yard as his message to the world,” stated Amanda Frost, a regulation professor on the College of Virginia.

That is “the equal of placing a ‘Cease the Steal’ sign up your yard, which is an issue should you’re deciding election-related circumstances,” she stated.

Interviews present that the justice’s spouse, Martha-Ann Alito, had been in a dispute with one other household on the block over an anti-Trump signal on their garden, however given the timing and the starkness of the image, neighbors interpreted the inverted flag as a political assertion by the couple.

The longstanding ethics code for the decrease courts, in addition to the recent one adopted by the Supreme Court docket, stress the necessity for judges to stay unbiased and keep away from political statements or opinions on issues that might come earlier than them.

“You all the time need to be proactive concerning the look of impartiality,” Jeremy Fogel, a former federal decide and the director of the Berkeley Judicial Institute, stated in an interview. “The perfect apply could be to be sure that nothing like that’s in entrance of your home.”

The court docket has additionally repeatedly warned its personal workers towards public shows of partisan views, in accordance with pointers circulated to the employees and reviewed by The Instances. Displaying indicators or bumper stickers isn’t permitted, in accordance with the court docket’s inside rule e-book and a 2022 memo reiterating the ban on political exercise.

Requested if these guidelines additionally apply to justices, the court docket declined to reply.

The precise length that the flag flew exterior the Alito residence is unclear. In an e mail from Jan. 18, 2021, reviewed by The Instances, a neighbor wrote to a relative that the flag had been the other way up for a number of days at that time.

Lately, the quiet sanctuary of his avenue, with residents who’re registered Republicans and Democrats, has tensed with battle, neighbors stated. Across the 2020 election, a household on the block displayed an anti-Trump signal with an expletive. It apparently offended Mrs. Alito and led to an escalating conflict between her and the household, in accordance with interviews.

Some residents have additionally bridled on the noise and intrusion introduced by protesters, who began displaying up exterior the Alito residence in 2022 after the Supreme Court docket overturned the federal proper to abortion. Different neighbors have joined the demonstrators, whose intent was “to deliver the protest to their private lives as a result of the selections have an effect on our private lives,” stated Heather-Ann Irons, who got here to the road to protest.

The half-dozen neighbors who noticed the flag, or knew of it, requested anonymity as a result of they stated they didn’t need to add to the contentiousness on the block and feared reprisal. Final Saturday, Could 11, protesters returned to the road, waving flags of their very own (“Don’t Tread on My Uterus”) and utilizing a megaphone to broadcast expletives at Justice Alito, who was in Ohio giving a commencement address. Mrs. Alito appeared in a window, complaining to the Supreme Court docket safety element exterior.

Turning the American flag the other way up is a logo of emergency and misery, first used as a navy S.O.S., historians stated in interviews. In latest a long time, it has more and more been used as a political protest image — a controversial one, as a result of the flag code and navy custom require the paramount image of america to be handled with respect.

Through the years, upside-down flags have been displayed by each the correct and the left as an outcry over a spread of points, together with the Vietnam Warfare, gun violencethe Supreme Court docket’s overturning of the constitutional proper to abortion and, particularly, election outcomes. In 2012, Tea Celebration followers inverted flags at their homes to sign disgust on the re-election of President Barack Obama. 4 years later, some liberals suggested doing the identical after Mr. Trump was elected.

Throughout Mr. Trump’s quest to win, after which subvert, the 2020 election, the gesture took off as by no means earlier than, turning into “actually established as a logo of the ‘Cease the Steal’ marketing campaign,” in accordance with Alex Newhouse, a researcher on the College of Colorado Boulder.

A flood of social media posts exhorted Trump supporters to flip over their flags or purchase new ones to show the other way up.

“If Jan. 6 rolls round and Biden is confirmed by the Electoral School our nation is in misery!!” a poster wrote on Patriots.win, a discussion board for Trump supporters, garnering over a thousand “up” votes. “In case you can not go to the DC rally then you could do your responsibility and present your assist for our president by flying the flag the other way up!!!!”

Native newspapers from Lexington, Ky.to Sun City, Ariz., to North Jersey wrote concerning the flags cropping up close by. A number of days earlier than the inauguration, a Senate candidate in Minnesota flew an upside-down flag on his campaign vehicle.

Hanging an inverted flag exterior a house was “an express signifier that you’re a part of this neighborhood that believes America has been taken and must be taken again,” Mr. Newhouse stated.

This spring, the justices are already laboring underneath suspicion by many Individuals that no matter choices they make concerning the Jan. 6 circumstances will likely be partisan. Justice Clarence Thomas has declined to recuse himself regardless of the direct involvement of his spouse, Virginia Thomas, in efforts to overturn the election.

Now, with choices within the Jan. 6 circumstances anticipated in just some weeks, an analogous debate could unfurl about Justice Alito, the ethics specialists stated. “It truly is a query of appearances and the potential influence on public confidence within the court docket,” Mr. Fogel stated. “I believe it might be higher for the court docket if he weren’t concerned in circumstances arising from the 2020 election. However I’m fairly sure that he’ll see that in a different way.”

If Justice Alito had been on one other court docket, Mr. Fogel stated, the flag might additionally set off some form of assessment to find out if there was any misconduct. However as a result of the Supreme Court docket serves because the arbiter of its personal conduct, “you don’t actually have anyplace to take it,” he stated.

Aric Toler contributed reporting. Julie Tate contributed analysis.



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