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  /  News   /  Alito, Roberts secretly recorded at historical society dinner

Alito, Roberts secretly recorded at historical society dinner

Secret recordings published Monday showed Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts’s and Justice Samuel Alito’s thoughts on the politics of the court, with Alito predicting no easy solution to the country’s political polarization.

“One side or the other is going to win,” he said in a private conversation at the Supreme Court Historical Society’s annual dinner June 3.

The remarks were recorded by progressive filmmaker Lauren Windsor, who attended the event as a member of the society under her real name, though she posed as a conservative to elicit answers from the justices. The recordings were published by Rolling Stone and Windsor’s activist site The Undercurrent.

Alito appeared to embrace his role as a partisan, which liberals have long accused him of being despite the nominally nonpartisan nature of the court.

Again posing as a conservative, Windsor told Alito that she couldn’t see herself getting along with liberals “in the way that needs to happen for the polarization to end,” adding that the court should be about “winning.”

“I think you’re probably right,” he said. “On one side or the other — one side or the other is going to win. I don’t know. I mean, there can be a way of working — a way of living together peacefully, but it’s difficult, you know, because there are differences on fundamental things that really can’t be compromised. They really can’t be compromised. So it’s not like you are going to split the difference.” 

He later agreed with her sentiment that people must fight to “return our country to a place of godliness.”

Roberts, however, pushed back on the same sentiment when Windsor asked him. The chief justice denied that the current court is especially politically polarized, and he brushed off her idea that the U.S. is inherently Christian.

“Would you want me to be in charge of putting the nation on a more moral path?” Roberts asked Windsor after being pressed for his thoughts. “That’s for people we elect. That’s not for lawyers.”

He added that it’s “not our job” to consider faith in the court’s decisions, or any guiding framing for the country’s ideology, pointing to the perspective of his “Jewish and Muslim friends.”

“It’s our job to decide the cases the best we can,” he said.

The chief justice is considered the court’s most moderate of its five right-wing justices, while Alito is one of its more outspoken conservatives. Both were nominees of then-President George W. Bush.

Windsor said she felt “justified” to record the justices surreptitiously because the court is “shrouded in secrecy, and they’re refusing to submit to any accountability in the face of overwhelming evidence of serious ethics breaches.”

Justices Clarence Thomas and Alito have faced accusations of impropriety related to accepting lavish gifts from a conservative donor who had business in front of the court. Data released last week found that Thomas has accepted more than $4 million in gifts since 2004 and Alito received more than $140,000, the third most of all current and former justices.


5 revelations from Supreme Court justices’ latest financial disclosures 

Alito also found himself in controversy when it was discovered that an “Appeal to Heaven” flag and an upside-down American flag were flown at his homes. The symbols have been associated with far-right politics, Christian nationalism, and those who participated in the Jan. 6 Capitol riots.

Alito said the flags were not political statements, but merely responses to personal attacks from his wife against neighbors, though the neighbor has publicly doubted the justice’s story. The controversy has sparked widespread criticism from Democrats in Congress, including multiple high-profile members demanding he recuse himself from Jan. 6-related cases.

The Hill has reached out to Windsor for comment.