Judge Michael Ponsor, a sitting federal judge appointed by Bill Clinton, weighed in on the upside-down flag flying at Justice Samuel Alito’s home in an op-ed for The New York Times on Friday, and said it was unethical. 

“Regardless of its legality, displaying the flag in that way, at that time, shouldn’t have happened. To put it bluntly, any judge with reasonable ethical instincts would have realized immediately that flying the flag then and in that way was improper. And dumb,” Ponsor said.

An upside-down American flag, a symbol used by Donald Trump supporters who claim President Biden did not win the 2020 election, was seen flying at Alito’s home in the weeks following the Jan. 6 riot, the New York Times first reported. 

“Courts work because people trust judges. Taking sides in this way erodes that trust,” Ponsor, a senior judge on the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, continued, criticizing the Supreme Court. 


Alito previously told Fox News that his wife was the one who hung the flag in response to insults from a neighbor. 

“You just don’t do that sort of thing, whether it may be considered over the line, or just edging up to the margin. Flying those flags was tantamount to sticking a ‘Stop the steal’ bumper sticker on your car. You just don’t do it,” Ponsor wrote. 

Ponsor also weighed in on the fact that it was Alito’s wife who raised the flag.

“Being a judge’s spouse is not easy. On the one hand, a person should not have to forfeit the right to free expression at the marriage altar. On the other hand, it is not unreasonable to expect a spouse to avoid embarrassing a loved one or complicating his or her professional life,” Ponsor continued.


Another symbol carried by Trump supporters, an “Appeal to Heaven” flag, was seen flying at a beach home owned by Alito in New Jersey, the Times reported days later. The flag, also known as the Pine Tree flag, dates back to the Revolutionary War and is also associated with wanting a Christian government, according to the New York Times. 

“Basic ethical behavior should not rely on laws or regulations. It should be folded into a judge’s DNA. That didn’t happen here. The flag display may or may not have been unlawful, but as far as the public’s perception of the court’s integrity, it certainly was not helpful,” Ponsor wrote.

Ponsor previously criticized the Supreme Court in a New York Times op-ed in July 2023 as a federal judge. He questioned their ethics standards and called the justices to establish a “a formal ethical apparatus.” 

Another sitting federal judge, Reggie Walton, has criticized the former president on CNN. Former Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg also regularly hit Trump while he was a presidential candidate, as a sitting justice. 

“He is a faker,” Ginsburg said in 2016, according to CNN. “He has no consistency about him. He says whatever comes into his head at the moment. He really has an ego… How has he gotten away with not turning over his tax returns? The press seems to be very gentle with him on that.”

Alito is facing several calls to recuse himself from Trump-related cases over the flag controversy from members of the media, as well as Democratic lawmakers.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez demanded during an interview on MSNBC that the Senate investigate Alito. 

“Samuel Alito has identified himself with the same people who raided the Capitol on Jan. 6, and is now going to be presiding over court cases that have deep implications over the participants of that rally,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “And while this is the threat to our democracy, Democrats have a responsibility for defending our democracy. And in the Senate, we have gavels.”