An Unjust Affair: Call for Justice Alito to Step Down from Student Debt Cases Amid Conflict of Interest

Last Friday, a petition made the rounds demanding U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito remove himself from two crucial cases that could spell the future of President Joe Biden’s proposed student debt relief. This request roots in Alito’s connections to a GOP billionaire patron who bankrolls conservative entities working to dismantle the president’s initiative.

Shining a light on this was a recent exposé by ProPublica, which disclosed Alito’s 2008 undisclosed luxury fishing jaunt to Alaska, aboard a private jet owned by Paul Singer. Intriguingly, Singer’s hedge fund has frequently appeared before the Supreme Court, and Alito has consistently refrained from recusing himself from these cases.

This Alaskan adventure was coordinated by Leonard Leo, the brain behind the Federalist Society, a conservative law group advocating an 18th-century interpretation of the U.S. Constitution. This society has been instrumental in nudging the U.S. judiciary towards the right, and all six conservative Supreme Court justices have been associated with it in some capacity.

The petition, initiated by the Debt Collective, begins, “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.”

These cases bear the potential to either make or break the Biden administration’s transformational student debt relief aimed at assisting over 40 million working families. Given Alito’s declared apprehensions about potential conflicts of interest and the appearance of impropriety, the petitioners anticipate that he will recuse himself from these cases.

What bolsters the case for Alito’s recusal is Singer’s substantial financial support to the Judicial Crisis Network. This network has extended at least $150,000 to the Job Creators Network, a shadowy right-wing organization funding the plaintiffs in U.S. Department of Education v. Brown.

Furthermore, Singer is the chair of the Manhattan Institute, a conservative think tank infamous for members like Christopher Rufo, who has stoked irrational fears against critical race theory, and Diane Yap, who has faced accusations of propagating racist stereotypes under the veil of countering anti-Asian racism and advocating educational merit. The institute has lodged an amicus brief in Biden v. Nebraska, urging the Supreme Court to invalidate the student debt relief plan.

Beyond just the petition, the Debt Collective also drew attention to the Supreme Court’s recent decisions establishing that states do not have the legal standing to challenge the Biden administration on federal policies.

Highlighting these rulings, Debt Collective spokesperson Braxton Brewington stated, “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.”

Indeed, for young and millennial readers of The Young Turks, this development is a stark reminder of the entanglement of big money and politics, underlining the necessity for judicial independence and integrity in the highest court of the land.