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Durbin Responds to Justice Alito's Refusal to Recuse Himself in 2020 Election Cases

SPRINGFIELD – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, today released the following statement after Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito refused to recuse himself from cases concerning the 2020 election and the January 6th insurrection. The justice’s refusal comes in response to a letter Durbin and U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Chair of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Federal Courts, sent to Chief Justice John Roberts last week imploring the Chief Justice to take appropriate steps to ensure Justice Alito recused himself from these cases.

The Senators’ letter came on the heels of two reports from the New York Times that Justice Alito flew, at two separate residences, flags that were carried by insurrectionists at the Capitol on January 6th.

“Justice Alito’s response clearly demonstrates why the Supreme Court needs an enforceable code of conduct.

“The Committee has been conducting a thorough investigation into years of ethical lapses by some justices on the Supreme Court—and the Committee has been reviewing the latest reporting on Justice Alito as part of this ongoing investigation.  Flying the American flag upside down at his home is a signal of defiance, which raises reasonable questions about bias and fairness in cases pending before the Court. 

“At the end of the day, the Chief Justice can end this spiraling decline in America’s confidence in our highest Court by taking decisive action to establish a credible code of conduct.  I will continue to pursue what the American people are demanding: accountability, transparency, and an enforceable code of conduct for Supreme Court justices.”

Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats are engaged in a longstanding oversight effort to ensure transparency and accountability at the Supreme Court and in the federal judiciary.  Durbin has continuously called for the passage of the Supreme Court Ethics, Recusal, and Transparency (SCERT) Act, legislation that the Senate Judiciary Committee advanced 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, and require justices to explain their recusal decisions to the public.

Durbin has been calling on the Supreme Court to adopt an enforceable code of conduct for more than a decade. He first sent a letter to the Chief Justice on this issue more than 12 years ago.