Justice Samuel Alito

U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Samuel Alito appears before a House Appropriations Committee hearing on March 7, 2019 in Washington, D.C.

(Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Petition Demands Alito Recuse From Student Debt Cases Tied to Billionaire Benefactor

"The appearance of corruption—your ties to Mr. Singer, and his ties to organizations with business before the court in Brown and Nebraska—clear the high ethical bar you established for yourself at your confirmation hearing in 2006."

A petition circulated Friday demands that U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito recuse himself from a pair of cases that will decide the fate of President Joe Biden's student debt relief proposal, citing the judge's ties to a billionaire GOP megadonor who funds conservative groups fighting to kill the president's plan.

Earlier this week, ProPublicapublished a bombshell expośe revealing Alito took a previously undisclosed 2008 luxury fishing trip to Alaska on a private jet belonging to Paul Singer, whose hedge fund repeatedly had cases before the Supreme Court from which Alito declined to recuse himself.

Alito's Alaska getaway was organized by Leonard Leo, who heads the Federalist Society, a conservative legal organization promoting an 18th-century interpretation of the U.S. Constitution. The group has played a key role in the U.S. judiciary's rightward shift, and all six conservative Supreme Court justices are current or former members.

"In light of your now well-documented financial entanglement with billionaire investor Paul Singer, we write to demand your immediate recusal from two cases in which Mr. Singer appears to have direct or indirect ties to litigants or amici—Biden v. Nebraska and U.S. Department of Education v. Brown," begins the petition, which is being circulated by the Debt Collective.

The petition continues:

As you know, these cases will determine whether the Biden administration is able to deliver transformational student debt relief to more than 40 million working families...

Given your stated concerns over "the appearance of impropriety" related to potential conflicts of interest and the standard for recusal you set out in your own Senate confirmation hearing (recusal is needed when "any possible question might arise"), we expect that you agree that it is necessary to recuse yourself from both cases. We urge you to immediately and publicly communicate your intent to do so before decisions on these cases are released.

"The appearance of corruption—your ties to Mr. Singer, and his ties to organizations with business before the court in Brown and Nebraska—clear the high ethical bar you established for yourself at your confirmation hearing in 2006," the petition states. "There is only one path forward: You must recuse yourself in both Brown and Nebraska.

The petition cites Singer's "major" financial support for the Judicial Crisis Network, which has given at least $150,000 in direct financial support to the Job Creators Network, a right-wing dark money group bankrolling the plaintiffs in U.S. Department of Education v. Brown.

Singer also chairs the Manhattan Institute, a right-wing think tank known for members like Christopher Rufo, purveyor of baseless anti-critical race theory hysteria, and Diane Yap, who stands accused of promoting racist stereotypes under the guise of countering anti-Asian racism and championing educational merit. The organization filed a consolidated amicus brief in Biden v. Nebraska imploring the Supreme Court to strike down the student debt relief plan. In addition to the petition, the Debt Collective also noted that the Supreme Court on Friday "ruled that states do not have legal standing to sue the Biden administration on federal policies."

"In today's United States v. Texas decision, the court ruled that the states of Texas and Louisiana do not have standing to try to use the courts to force the Biden administration to enforce immigration laws more punitively," the group said. "Last week, in Haaland v. Brackeen, the Supreme Court ruled that the state of Texas also did not have standing to sue the federal government on behalf of its citizens—similar to the lawsuit brought on by Republican attorneys general in the sham student debt lawsuit."

Observing these rulings, Debt Collective spokesperson Braxton Brewington said in a statement Friday that "if the Supreme Court strikes down student debt relief, it will be a stark deviation from their rulings thus far and further expose the political corruption within this court."

"In Justice [Amy Coney] Barrett's own words, the ruling for student debt relief should be 'open and shut' in favor of mostly low-income families burdened with the crushing weight of student debt," Brewington added.

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