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Justice Samuel Alito rejects calls from Democratic senators to recuse in case involving journalist who interviewed him

Associate Justice Samuel Alito sits during a group photo of the Justices at the Supreme Court in Washington, DC on April 23, 2021.

(CNN) — Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito sharply rejected calls from Democratic senators that he not participate in an upcoming tax case where one of the lawyers involved also participated in recent Wall Street Journal interviews of the conservative jurist.

Alito, in a court filing Friday, said the argument for him to recuse was “unsound” and that there was “no valid reason” for him not to participate in the case.

“When Mr. Rivkin participated in the interviews and co-authored the articles, he did so as a journalist, not an advocate,” Alito wrote, referring to David B. Rivkin, the opinion journalist in question who is representing one of the parties in the tax case.

“The case in which he is involved was never mentioned; nor did we discuss any issue in that case either directly or indirectly. His involvement in the case was disclosed in the second article, and therefore readers could take that into account.”

Alito announced his decision not to recuse with the list of orders the Supreme Court released on Friday morning. His statement rattled off several examples of justices on the left and right ends of the ideological spectrum sitting for interviews with news outlets that were also parties in cases before the high court. Alito also said that his fellow justices had been interviewed by – and even written books with – lawyers who practice before the Supreme Court, and that those interviews “did not result in or require recusal.”

The case in question is a dispute that has caught the attention of some who fear it could vastly expand the federal taxing power.

At issue is a provision of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 that mandates a tax on accumulated earnings of certain foreign corporations in which an individual owns shares.

Rivkin is not the lead lawyer in the case and is not expected to argue. Nevertheless, Senate Democrats say that Rivkin’s access to Alito could cast doubt on Alito’s ability to remain neutral in the case.

Alito on Friday contended that Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, the Senate Judiciary Chairman who led the calls for Alito to sit out in the case, was apparently pushing a theory for recusal that “fundamentally misunderstands the circumstances under which Supreme Court Justices must work.”

“We have no control over the attorneys whom parties select to represent them, and as a result, we are often presented with cases in which one of the attorneys has spoken favorably or unfavorably about our work or character,” Alito said, while also pointing to how justices routinely review briefs submitted by members of Congress who have publicly supported or opposed them, including in confirmation proceedings.

“We participate in cases in which one or more of the attorneys is a former law clerk, a former colleague, or an individual with whom we have long been acquainted,” Alito said. “If we recused in such cases, we would regularly have less than a full bench, and the Court’s work would be substantially disrupted and distorted.”

He said that the justices “are required to put favorable or unfavorable comments and any personal connections with an attorney out of our minds and judge the cases based solely on the law and the facts. And that is what we do.”

This story has been updated with additional reaction.