Secret recordings reveal Justice Alito’s criticism of Supreme Court investigation

My J-school conscience tells me that I must deplore the surreptitious recording of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito and his wife, Martha-Ann, by an activist named Lauren Windsor. Okay, deplore, deplore, deplore. Now let’s get to the really juicy stuff. From Politico:

Alito: I wish I knew. I don’t know. It’s easy to blame the media, but I blame them because they only criticize us. And so they really eroded trust in the court. … American citizens in general need to work on this to address this polarization, because it is very dangerous. … We have a very defined role and we have to do what we’re supposed to do. But this is a bigger problem. It’s way above us.

It was last year. This year, Windsor went before the same wing of the Supreme Court Historical Society and got the justice to explain that any negotiations with “the left” were doomed to failure.

Alito: I think you’re probably right: One side or the other is going to win. I mean there can be a way of working, a way of living together in peace, right? It’s difficult because there are differences on fundamental things that cannot be compromised.

Martha-Ann Alito was also quite talkative, especially about flags.

MA Alito: I want a flag of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, because I have to look across the lagoon at the Pride flag for the next month. … He says, “Oh, please don’t raise a flag.” I said, “I won’t do it because I’m relying on you.” But when you are free from this nonsense, I will put it online and message them every day. Maybe every week I’ll change the flags.

Ultimately, without the excitement present in the “secret recordings”, there is almost nothing here that should surprise anyone. Stripes are a particularly garish shiny object. As confirmation of what should have been obvious about the Alitos for years, they serve a purpose, I suppose. Now we will have a downpour of faux-tragedy on how the information was collected. From The hill:

“Our policy is to ensure that all participants, including judges, are treated with respect. We condemn the surreptitious recording of judges at the event, which is inconsistent with the spirit of the evening,” James Duff, the group’s executive director, said in a statement.

Oh, sit down and be quiet, please. In December 2022, The New York Times published a story about how donations to the Supreme Court Historical Society, ostensibly a charity, had been used by various interested parties as a means of access to the justices.

The company has raised more than $23 million over the past two decades. Because of its nonprofit status, it is not required to publicly disclose its donors — and declined when asked to do so. But The New York Times was able to identify the sources behind more than $10.7 million raised since 2003, the first year for which relevant records were available. At least $6.4 million — or 60 percent — came from corporations, special interest groups or lawyers and firms that argued in court, according to an analysis of archived newsletters of the historical society and publicly available documents detailing grants awarded to the society by foundations. . Of that sum, at least $4.7 million came from individuals or entities during years when they had an interest in a case pending in the Federal Court on appeal or before the High Court, records show.

Business on the ring road is proceeding as usual.

Virtually no one interviewed by The Times, including critics of the company’s fundraising practices, said they believed donations to the company had any bearing on cases before judges. On the one hand, many donors are already part of the insular, clubby world of the Supreme Court, where former clerks socialize and frequently argue their cases in front of their former bosses, and where justices flatly refuse to televise their arguments and only reserve specifically only a fraction of the court’s 439 seats reserved for the public.

However, as the Times reported elsewhere, the Company’s verification procedures have sometimes resulted in leaks.

In a letter to Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and in interviews with The New York Times, the Rev. Rob Schenck said he was informed of the outcome of the 2014 case weeks before his announcement. He used that information to prepare a public relations campaign, records show, and said that at the last minute he tipped off the president of Hobby Lobby, the evangelical-Christian-owned craft store chain that was the winning party in the case. Both court rulings were triumphs for conservatives and the religious right. Both majority opinions were written by Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. But the leak of the draft opinion striking down the constitutional right to abortion was revealed in the media by Politico, sparking a national outcry. With Hobby Lobby, Mr. Schenck said, the outcome was shared with only a handful of advocates.

Schenck then raised hell by explaining how he had used the Society to “embolden” judges to take an extremist line on his issues, particularly on reproductive freedom.

Charles Fried, who served as solicitor general in the Reagan administration and is now a professor at Harvard Law School, said he was so “horrified” by Mr. Schenck’s use of the company that he might no longer make a donation. And he added that while he did not believe the donations influenced the justices, for the sake of appearances a charity so closely tied to the court should not solicit money from businesses and other particular interests while they were seized of cases.

The recordings only add live dialogue to the vast web of polite, quiet corruption in Washington, which is more destructive than if someone showed up in the Supreme Court chambers wearing C4 underwear. Now it’s deplorable.

Portrait of Charles P. Pierce

Charles P Pierce is the author of four books, most recently Stupid Americaand has been a journalist since 1976.