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Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito Defends Himself Against ProPublica's Accusation of Ethics Violation

Alito is the second justice targeted by the news outlet this year

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito has formally responded to a recent article from a left-wing news outlet that has been publishing a series of stories aimed at justices on the Court.

On June 20, ProPublica ran an article suggesting that Alito may have committed ethics violations by not reporting a 2008 fishing trip on annual financial disclosures. The vacation was at a luxury fishing lodge that charged more than $1,000 per day, and was paid for by hedge fund billionaire Paul Singer. Travel aboard a private jet was paid for by Singer, which would have cost Alito more than $100,000 one way.

“By failing to disclose the private jet flight Singer provided, Alito appears to have violated a federal law that requires justices to disclose most gifts, according to ethics law experts,” ProPublica stated.

However, the law requiring reporting for gifts considered “personal hospitality” was not passed until March 2023, meaning trips that occurred years ago would not be required to be disclosed.

ProPublica alleges a conflict of interest given that years after the trip, the Court heard cases involving entities with loose connections to Singer’s hedge fund.

In an op-ed published the day after ProPublica’s report, Alito reiterated the fact that the newly-adopted regulation requiring “hospitality” to be disclosed was not in effect at the time of his trip.

“When I joined the Court and until the recent amendment of the filing instructions, justices commonly interpreted this discussion of ‘hospitality’ to mean that accommodations and transportation for social events were not reportable gifts,” Alito wrote. “The flight to Alaska was the only occasion when I have accepted transportation for a purely social event, and in doing so I followed what I understood to be standard practice.”

Alito added, “For these reasons, I did not include on my Financial Disclosure Report for 2008 either the accommodations provided by the owner of the King Salmon Lodge, who, to my knowledge, has never been involved in any matter before the Court, or the seat on the flight to Alaska.”

Prior to Alito being invited, Singer had already made arrangements to fly and asked Alito if he would like to use a seat that simply would have remained vacant, Alito explained.

In addressing concerns over recusal, Alito said that Singer was not listed as a party in any cases named in the ProPublica, nor did his name appear in any of the corporate disclosure statements or petitions for the Court to hear a case.

“Because his name did not appear in these filings, I was unaware of his connection with any of the listed entities, and I had no good reason to be aware of that,” Alito stated. “The entities that ProPublica claims are connected to Mr. Singer all appear to be either limited liability corporations or limited liability partnerships. It would be utterly impossible for my staff or any other Supreme Court employees to search filings with the SEC or other government bodies to find the names of all individuals with a financial interest in every such entity named as a party in the thousands of cases that are brought to us each year.”

This story from ProPublica, which has been rated as having a left-wing political bias, follows a series of attacks on Supreme Court justices that began this spring.

In April, the news outlet alleged Justice Clarence Thomas received undisclosed gifts from years ago that were subject to reporting requirements established this year.

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