Samuel Alito’s Repeated Absences Cause Distress Amid Important Supreme Court Docket

By: Georgia | Last updated: Jun 28, 2024

Last week, Justice Samuel Alito was absent from the Supreme Court on Thursday and Friday, a fact that CNN reported without any official explanation from the Court. 

This absence coincides with a crucial period for the Court, raising numerous eyebrows given the timing right before major decisions are expected.

Potential Delays Ahead for the Court

Justice Alito’s absence might lead to a delay in the Supreme Court’s tight schedule. 

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Official portrait of Justice Samuel Alito smiling, dressed in his judicial robes in the Supreme Court

Source: Wikimedia Commons

According to CNN, the Court is rushing to issue its decisions before the term concludes, and without Alito, there’s talk that this might push the term’s end into July to handle all undecided cases.

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Awaiting Decisions on Major Cases

Newsweek highlights that the Court is on the verge of deciding several high-profile cases, including the issue of former President Donald Trump’s immunity from prosecution. 

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Frontal view of the United States Supreme Court building, showcasing the grand facade and the "Equal Justice Under Law" inscription

Source: Wikimedia Commons

These anticipated decisions could be influenced by Alito’s absence, which adds an element of uncertainty to the outcomes.

Flags and Recusal Controversies

Justice Alito has been under scrutiny for not recusing himself from Trump-related cases despite controversies over flags similar to those used by Capitol rioters being displayed at his residences. 

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A flag labeled 'An Appeal to Heaven' featuring a pine tree and an American flag, held by a person at a crowded event

Source: Wikimedia Commons

CNN reports that Alito attributed the presence of these flags to his wife, Martha-Ann, who flew an upside-down U.S. flag and an ‘Appeal to Heaven’ flag at their properties.

Social Media Buzz

Joyce Vance, a former federal prosecutor, brought attention to Alito’s absence on the social platform X, stating, “Alito was absent from court for two days last week. No word on why.” 

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Portrait of Joyce Vance smiling, wearing a dark blazer and glasses, standing in front of the MSNBC building

Source: JoyceWhiteVance/X

This comment has sparked a wave of speculation and concern online about the reasons behind his absence.

Speculative Media Reactions

Media outlets have been abuzz with speculation about Alito’s recent no-show. 

Close-up of Justice Samuel Alito laughing during a public appearance, dressed in a suit without judicial robes

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Newsweek reports that the New Republic playfully speculated whether Alito was recuperating from a flag day celebration or intentionally delaying proceedings, highlighting the mixture of humor and serious speculation that has filled the void of official information.

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Transparency Concerns Raised

The Palmer Report commented on the lack of transparency about Alito’s disappearance, noting the unusual silence from the Court: “Alito has been absent from the court for the last few days. Nobody knows why.” 

Close-up view of the Supreme Court building's façade under a clear blue sky, focusing on the neoclassical architectural details and the "Equal Justice Under Law" inscription

Source: Wikimedia Commons

This statement reflects wider concerns about the transparency of the Supreme Court’s operations.

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Impact on Supreme Court Dynamics

The absence of Justice Alito is pivotal, not just for the cases at hand but for the overall dynamics of the Supreme Court. 

Interior view of the United States Supreme Court chamber showing the bench where the justices sit, featuring red drapes, marble columns, and a central clock above the bench

Source: Wikimedia Commons

His absence affects the balance of the Court and potentially alters the outcomes of decisions, especially in closely contested cases.

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Uncommon Silence from the Court

It’s rare for a Supreme Court Justice to miss key decision days without a public explanation. 

The façade of the Supreme Court building illuminated by the warm light of sunset

Source: Ian Hutchinson/Unsplash

This unusual silence has prompted legal experts and court watchers to closely monitor the situation, eager to understand the potential impacts on the Court’s efficiency and decision-making process.

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Public Interest Peaks

This incident has significantly raised public interest in the workings of the Supreme Court. 

Spring view of the Supreme Court building framed by blooming cherry blossoms with a clear blue sky

Source: Bill Mason/Unsplash

Across the nation, people are closely watching how Justice Alito’s absence could affect key judicial decisions and what it may reveal about the inner workings of the Court.

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Eager Anticipation for Alito's Return

The legal community and the public are on edge, waiting to see if Justice Alito will return to the bench this week. 

Justice Samuel Alito shaking hands with former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a formal setting inside a room with wood paneling

Source: Wikimedia Commons

His presence or further absence will likely dominate discussions among those following the Court, providing potentially critical insights into the ongoing developments.

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Continuing Questions Without Answers

As more time passes without any official word on why Justice Alito was absent, the speculation continues to grow. 

Wide-angle view of the Supreme Court building and its front plaza, showing the expansive steps and surrounding flowering trees, with people walking across the plaza

Source: Wikimedia Commons

This ongoing mystery only intensifies public and legal interest in the transparency and accountability of the judiciary, particularly during such a critical period for the Supreme Court.

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Supreme Court Session

Currently, the Supreme Court is very busy with an influx of huge cases to decide on before the court’s session ends with any delays possibly causing cases to shift into a future term.

A view of the U.S. Supreme Court building seen during the daytime.

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Typically, the Supreme Court ends its term by the end of June or in early July and will reserve the most impactful and dramatic cases for last.

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Current Cases

According to PBS on Wednesday, the Supreme Court heard 61 cases this term and 12 have remained unresolved.

a wooden court gavel photographed against a black background.

Source: Tingey Injury Law Firm/Usnplash

One case of importance is the question of Donald Trump’s ability to use presidential immunity to protect himself from criminal proceedings.

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Trump’s Trial

Former President Donald Trump is scheduled to have a criminal trial in D.C. surrounding allegations that Trump had plotted to subvert the transfer of power to his successor Joe Biden over the presidential election.

Donald Trump talking in front of a podium with his hand raised.

Source: Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons

This case is important because the trial may happen before the November general election, which could have an effect on his standing with voters.

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January 6th

Another issue before the court is related to the January 6th incident in 2021 that saw hundreds of people charge the US Capitol building.

A close-up of the Capitol Building, with the US flag outside it.

Joshua Sukoff/Unsplash

In this case, Trump faces a charge of obstructing a proceeding and the court will make a decision regarding whether a law against document tampering can be used against accused Jan 6 protestors.

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Abortion Case

On Thursday, the Supreme Court allowed emergency abortions in Idaho, which lets hospitals perform them in specific circumstances. However, the issue was not completely resolved and may appear before the court again.

Many protestors with signs at an abortion rally in front of the U.S. Capitol.

Source: Gayatri Malhotra/Unsplash

Bloomberg reported that the court had accidentally posted the brief on the Supreme Court website. This ruling effectively allows a lower court ruling to go into effect.

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Alito on Abortion

In response to the abortion ruling, Alito issued an emphatic dissent, asserting that doctors have a responsibility to protect an unborn child under federal law.

An abortion protest sign that says 'Not your body, not your choice.'

Source: Gayatri Malhotra/Wikimedia

“It goes without saying that aborting an ‘unborn child’ does not protect it from jeopardy,” Justice Alito wrote.

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Homelessness

On Friday, The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the constitutionality of local governments creating rules to ban homeless camps in public.

A dog laying on the lap of a homeless man sitting on the ground outside by his bag.

Source: Nick Fewings/Unsplash

It was ruled in a 6-3 decision and created a definitive precedent for governments to impose fines on homeless people living in public spaces.

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Alito Rules For Majority

In the homelessness case, Alito joined the majority in supporting the city of Grants Pass, Oregon that passed ordinances preventing homeless people from sleeping in public parks and streets. At the heart of the argument was whether being homeless counted as a protected status or merely someone’s conduct.

A homeless tent outside a red brick building.

Naomi August/Unsplash

During oral arguments, Justice Roberts suggested that if someone can instantly become “not homeless” then it is a conduct and not a status.

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Chevron Case

On June 28, the Supreme Court ruled on a case involving a Chevron decision, overturning the 40-year-old standard that gave federal agencies broad regulatory power.

A look up at the columns of the Supreme Court.

Source: Jesse Collins/Unsplash

“Chevron is overruled. Courts must exercise their independent judgment in deciding whether an agency has acted within its statutory authority, as the [Administrative Procedure Act] requires,” Justice Roberts wrote for the court.

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Railing Against the White House

After Alito’s return from his absence this week, he issued an opinion against a court case about social media misinformation where he accused the Biden administration of a “campaign to coerce Facebook.”

President Joe Biden speaking at a podium with the Presidential seal, at the White House, with teleprompters on either side and American flags in the background

Source: POTUS/X

“For months, high-ranking Government officials placed unrelenting pressure on Facebook to suppress Americans’ free speech,” Alito wrote. “Because the Court unjustifiably refuses to address this serious threat to the First Amendment, I respectfully dissent.”

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Speech Suppression

In this case, Alito felt like the Biden administration’s move to suppress COVID-19 opinions of social media users harmed their freedom of expression.

A 3D rendering of two logos floating against a white background. On the left is a blue square with the lowercase white 'f' representing the Facebook logo. On the right is the Meta logo, depicted as an infinity symbol in blue within a white rounded square

Source: Dima Solomin/Unsplash

“I assume that a fair portion of what social media users had to say about COVID-19 and the pandemic was of little lasting value,” Alito wrote in his dissent. “Some was undoubtedly untrue or misleading, and some may have been downright dangerous. But we now know that valuable speech was also suppressed.”

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Biden Bullying Facebook

Alito also accused White House officials of a policy where they would “browbeat” Facebook into deleting posts that they disapproved of.

Joe Biden holds a microphone and wears a dark suit while smiling.

Source: Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia

He also characterized Facebook’s decision to comply as “[resembling] that of a subservient entity determined to stay in the good graces of a powerful taskmaster.”

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