Supreme Court’s Alito Rejects Democratic Calls for Recusal

(Bloomberg) -- US Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito rejected Democratic demands that he recuse from a pending tax case after he gave two interviews to one of the participating lawyers for use in a Wall Street Journal article.

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In a unusual four-page statement released by the court, the conservative said that “there was nothing out of the ordinary about the interviews in question.”

The statement was the latest sign of brewing discord over the court’s ethics controversies, limited transparency and far-reaching rulings. Alito, who wrote last year’s decision overturning the constitutional right to abortion, has been at flashpoint, in part because of his pointed rebuttals to outside criticism.

The articles, co-written by conservative lawyer David Rivkin and Wall Street Journal columnist James Taranto, included blunt comments from Alito about the leak of the court’s abortion 2022 opinion and calls for stronger ethics rules.

A July 28 article quoted Alito as saying Congress lacks the constitutional power to impose an ethics code on the court. “No provision in the Constitution gives them the authority to regulate the Supreme Court — period,” Alito said in the article.

Rivkin is involved in a tax case involving foreign earnings, likely to be argued late this year. A group of Democrats led by Senate Judiciary Chairman Richard Durbin called for Alito’s recusal in an Aug. 3 letter to Chief Justice John Roberts.

Alito “surprises no one by sitting on a case involving a lawyer who honored him with a puff piece in the Wall Street Journal,” Durbin said in an emailed statement Friday. “Why do these justices continue to take a wrecking ball to the reputation of the highest court in the land?”

Alito said that Rivkin participated in the interviews “as a journalist not an advocate” and that they didn’t discuss the tax case “either directly or indirectly.”

Alito’s statement listed a number of interviews other justices have given over the years, along with cases in which they later participated involving those news organizations.

--With assistance from Laura Litvan.

(Updates with reaction from Durbin in seventh paragraph. An earlier version misspelled Rivkin’s name.)

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