At Justice Alito’s House, a ‘Stop the Steal’ Symbol on Display

At Justice Alito’s 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 houses, on their vehicles and in on-line posts: an upside-down American flag.

One of the houses flying an inverted flag throughout that point was the residence of Supreme Court 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 just a little 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 Times. Word of the flag filtered again to the courtroom, individuals who labored there stated in interviews.

While the flag was up, the courtroom was nonetheless contending with whether or not to listen to a 2020 election case, with Justice Alito on the dropping finish 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 may be held for making an attempt to overturn the final presidential election and his probabilities 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 Times. “It was briefly positioned by Mrs. Alito in response to a neighbor’s use of objectionable and personally insulting language on yard indicators.”

Judicial consultants 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 generally is a drawback, the ethics consultants stated. “It could be his partner or another person residing in his residence, however he shouldn’t have it in his yard as his message to the world,” stated Amanda Frost, a regulation professor on the University of Virginia.

This is “the equal of placing a ‘Stop the Steal’ sign up your yard, which is an issue when 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 latest one adopted by the Supreme Court, stresses 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 wish to be proactive in regards to the look of impartiality,” Jeremy Fogel, a former federal judge and the director of the Berkeley Judicial Institute, stated in an interview. “The finest apply can be to be sure that nothing like that’s in entrance of your own home.”

The courtroom has additionally repeatedly warned its personal workers in opposition to public shows of partisan views, in accordance with pointers circulated to the workers and reviewed by The Times. Displaying indicators or bumper stickers is just not permitted, in accordance with the courtroom’s inner rule e-book and a 2022 memo reiterating the ban on political exercise.

Asked if these guidelines additionally apply to justices, the courtroom declined to reply.

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

In latest years, the quiet sanctuary of his road, with residents who’re Republicans and Democrats, has tensed with battle, neighbors stated. Around 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 overturned the federal proper to abortion. Other neighbors have joined the demonstrators, whose intent was “to convey 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 wish to add to the contentiousness on the block and feared reprisal. Last Saturday, May 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 graduation tackle. Mrs. Alito appeared in a window, complaining to the Supreme Court safety element exterior.

Turning the American flag the other way up is a logo of emergency and misery, first used as a army 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 army custom require the paramount image of the United States to be handled with respect.

Over the years, upside-down flags have been displayed by each the best and the left as an outcry over a variety of points, together with the Vietnam War, gun violence, the Supreme Court’s overturning of the constitutional proper to abortion and, particularly, election outcomes. In 2012, Tea Party followers inverted flags at their houses to sign disgust on the re-election of President Barack Obama. Four years later, some liberals suggested doing the identical after Mr. Trump was elected.

During Mr. Trump’s quest to win, after which subvert, the 2020 election, the gesture took off as by no means earlier than, changing into “actually established as a logo of the ‘Stop the Steal’ marketing campaign,” in accordance with Alex Newhouse, a researcher on the University 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 College our nation is in misery!!” a poster wrote on, a discussion board for Trump supporters, garnering over a thousand “up” votes. “If you can’t go to the DC rally then you should do your responsibility and present your help for our president by flying the flag the other way up!!!!”

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

Hanging an inverted flag exterior a house was “an specific 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 beneath suspicion by many Americans that no matter choices they make in regards to the Jan. 6 circumstances will probably 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 identical debate might unfurl about Justice Alito, the ethics consultants stated. “It actually is a query of appearances and the potential affect on public confidence within the courtroom,” Mr. Fogel stated. “I believe it will be higher for the courtroom if he weren’t concerned in circumstances arising from the 2020 election. But I’m fairly sure that he’ll see that otherwise.”

If Justice Alito had been on one other courtroom, Mr. Fogel stated, the flag might additionally set off some type of evaluation to find out if there was any misconduct. But as a result of the Supreme Court 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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