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Posted at 11:26 AM ET, 12/12/2010

Justice Breyer: I'll go to State of the Union

By Aaron Blake

Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer said Sunday that he will attend the upcoming State of the Union address, even as more conservative justices have been critical of what happened at the last one.

Justices John Roberts and Samuel Alito have complained that President Obama, in last year's address, criticized the court on o ne of its decisions, even as the justices are expected to sit there expressionless.

Alito, at one point, mouthed the words "not true" when Obama criticized the court for "opening the floodgates" to corporate money in elections through its decision in the Citizens United case.

Breyer, who agreed with Obama on the Citizens United case and comes from the court's liberal wing, said he will still attend the speech, as he has throughout his tenure on the court.

"I'll go next year; I've gone every year," Breyer said during an appearance on "Fox News Sunday." "I think it's very, very, very important - very important -- for us to show up at that State of the Union, because people today are more and more visual."

Breyer declined to pass judgment on Roberts for criticizing Obama. But he said Supreme Court justices should be present at the address.

"What (people) see in front of them at the State of the Union is that federal government," Breyer added. "And I would like them to see the judges too, because federal judges are also a part of that government."

Breyer is promoting a new book that describes his judicial philosophy.

By Aaron Blake  | December 12, 2010; 11:26 AM ET
Categories:  44 The Obama Presidency, Court Watch, Supreme Court, White House  
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Comments

I guess the corporate boogey-men in Citizens United get all the credit, but the Unions poured in millions & millions of dollars and some it came from affilates in Canada. Not so much corporations as individuals. The self-funders this year didn't do all that well.

business neon signs
business opportunity

Posted by: getjiggly2 | December 14, 2010 2:20 AM | Report abuse

Actually Alito was wrong. Since that decision, secret corporate support of shadowy "issue" committees have soared and paid for an overwhelming flood of distracting, distorted, untruthful media assaults on the voting public. The more they spent, the louder they shouted until there was no public discussion of issues, just angry bullies shouting down their opponents.

Corporate-funded bullies shouting down their political opponents. That's the Republican way.

Posted by: thebobbob | December 13, 2010 6:55 PM | Report abuse

Justice Breyer: I'll go to State of the Union promoting my new book

Posted by: kstobbe1 | December 13, 2010 6:20 PM | Report abuse

Excuse me? Obama was extremely rude in his remarks. Obama verbally derided the justices and all Alito did was to silently protest.
I would boycott any further Obama state of the union addresses. Obama's behavior was totally unacceptable.

Posted by: spamsux1 | December 12, 2010 4:34 PM | Report abuse
__________________________________________________________________________________________
But it's okay for Joe NOBODY Wilson to call the President a lie during the State of the Union. Hypocrite!! Use a double standard much?

Posted by: denise4925 | December 13, 2010 4:05 PM | Report abuse

I guess the corporate boogey-men in Citizens United get all the credit, but the Unions poured in millions & millions of dollars and some it came from affilates in Canada. Not so much corporations as individuals. The self-funders this year didn't do all that well.

Posted by: alantich2000 | December 13, 2010 11:44 AM | Report abuse

Justice Breyer needs to take into account that the State of the Union is the platform where POTUS is supposed to give his vision for America, not publically deride another branch of government for a ruling the thug from Chicago disagrees with.
Then again, Justice Breyer believes it is constitutional to seize private property for what he believes is the good of the many (read collective).

Posted by: pielusztcontractor | December 13, 2010 8:45 AM | Report abuse

I'm horrified at the thought that Breyer thinks he can rewrite the constitution from the bench, in order to keep it "up to date."

If he wants to change the Constitution, then he should resign and start a campaign to amend or rewrite it.

Posted by: dumbreddown | December 13, 2010 7:44 AM | Report abuse

Dude, it's across the street from your office. It probably takes more effort to skip it. Point is, shut up and go, SC justices. Stop acting like your you-know-what doesn't stink. Frankly it undermines the prestige of the court. People are just as sick of you as anyone else--not because of your decisions necessarily, but the whole unaccountable untouchable lifetime in a bubble thing. It doesn't play well these days.

The Pope used to be able to kill or screw anyone anywhere he pleased, and pass binding laws with a motion of his hand. Today he gets a pickup truck and a job at a bank. Just sayin'.

I also thought Obama's criticism of the campaign finance decision was foolish. But to be fair, the criticism/prediction has has certainly been borne out by the facts. To state otherwise is, well, a lie.

Posted by: Godfather_of_Goals | December 12, 2010 10:22 PM | Report abuse

Rep. Joe Wilson told the truth. Obama, "You lie!!!'

Also, we won't have to put up with that cheerleading jack-in-the-box routine of Botox Pelosi.

There is justice in this world!!!

Posted by: Computer_Forensics_Expert_Computer_Expert_Witness | December 12, 2010 9:54 PM | Report abuse

next year, maybe breyer can escort sarah palin to the state of the union. I heard he thinks she's very hot.

Posted by: Socialistic | December 12, 2010 8:57 PM | Report abuse

For those that accuse Breyer and Obama of being Marxists. At least the two gentlemen support the Constitution - unlike Sarah who obviously does not believe in FREEDOM OF THE PRESS. Sarah "too cute" Palin the quitter and anti freedom candidate for those that are the real communists (the right with their hate for a FREE PRESS).LMAO @ the right.

Posted by: Freethotlib | December 12, 2010 7:39 PM | Report abuse

wewintheylose wrote:
"Of course he'll go, he and Fidel Obama are brother Marxists."

There you have it! Today's winning comment for delusional nonsense!

Sorry, winner/loser, but although I'm sure Breyer and Obama are to the left of you, thinking that they're Marxist is, well, delusional.

Posted by: post_reader_in_wv | December 12, 2010 6:48 PM | Report abuse

breyer thinks its okay to take property from u.s. citizens and give it to private companies to raise tax base for failed dem-run cities. he is a poor excuse for a jurist. faulty judgement.

Posted by: 12thgenamerican | December 12, 2010 5:34 PM | Report abuse

breyer thinks its okay to take property from u.s. citizens and give it to private companies to raise tax base for failed dem-run cities. he is a poor excuse for a jurist. faulty judgement.

Posted by: 12thgenamerican | December 12, 2010 5:33 PM | Report abuse

I would suggest Justice Alito evaluate who turned out to be right about Citizens United. I believe that would be Justice Breyer and President Obama. Alito and Roberts disgrace their robes and the Court.

Posted by: michmod | December 12, 2010 4:49 PM | Report abuse

I would suggest Justice Alito evaluate who turned out to be right about Citizens United. I believe that would be Justice Breyer and President Obama. He and the Chief Justice disgrace their robes.

Posted by: michmod | December 12, 2010 4:47 PM | Report abuse

Hazmat77 is absolutely correct. "Obama had no right to criticize the Court's decision. . " "Especially since Obama was wrong as usual in his interpretation of the case."

For Obama to call out anyone in a State of the Union address is deplorable. Hopefully, he will be out in 2012. At least he has some competition beginning in Jan. He will no longer be the dictator along with Pelosi!!

Posted by: annnort | December 12, 2010 4:41 PM | Report abuse

"Breyer declined to pass judgment on Roberts for criticizing Obama. But he said Supreme Court justices should be present at the address."

Excuse me? Obama was extremely rude in his remarks. Obama verbally derided the justices and all Alito did was to silently protest.
I would boycott any further Obama state of the union addresses. Obama's behavior was totally unacceptable.

Posted by: spamsux1 | December 12, 2010 4:34 PM | Report abuse

Of course he'll go, he and Fidel Obama are brother Marxists..

Posted by: wewintheylose | December 12, 2010 4:04 PM | Report abuse

Of course he'll go, he and Fidel Obama are brother Marxists..

Posted by: wewintheylose | December 12, 2010 4:04 PM | Report abuse

That corporations are people was decided long before the recent case. It is not a new concept. In fact, none of the parties contested that doctrine. Once that is established, the first amendment says "Congress shall make no law . . .". Doesn't "no law" mean no law? The real problem is that the Court long ago decided corporations are people and that the first amendment applies not only to action by the federal government but also action by the states. Both of these doctrines were made up by the Court and would have to be eliminated by the Court - but it requires a party to a case to raise the issue. Parties won't because of the reasonable expectation that such longstanding policies will not be overturned.

Posted by: Ashland | December 12, 2010 3:28 PM | Report abuse

That corporations are people was decided long before the recent case. It is not a new concept. In fact, none of the parties contested that doctrine. Once that is established, the first amendment says "Congress shall make no law . . .". Doesn't "no law" mean no law? The real problem is that the Court long ago decided corporations are people and that the first amendment applies not only to action by the federal government but also action by the states. Both of these doctrines were made up by the Court and would have to be eliminated by the Court - but it requires a party to a case to raise the issue. Parties won't because of the reasonable expectation that such longstanding policies will not be overturned.

Posted by: Ashland | December 12, 2010 3:25 PM | Report abuse

Justice Breyer appears to recognize several things that certain other Justices on the Court may not.

Our Constitution includes a First Amendment which guarantees freedom of speech, particularly upon political or governmental issues. The First Amendment applies no less to the President than to any other American.

Since the Court's decisions are public, and its decisions often express disapproval with or criticism of actions by the President and executive branch of the government, as well as disapproval or criticism of statutes passed by Congress, members of the Court should not be surprised if the President or other members of the executive or legislative branches in return express criticism of the Court, its decisions, or the judicial reasoning or philosophies underlying those decisions. So long as such criticism is addressed to the substance of such matters, rather than involving any personal animosity toward the Court or individual Justices, it is appropriate, and something to be expected.

It may require a certain level of maturity and self-restraint to listen in silence when one's actions are being criticized publicly, but many public officials, certainly including the President, find that their jobs require doing so from time to time. If nothing else, this means that they are hearing such criticism expressed directly in their presence, instead of behind their backs. Nobody interprets the silences of the Justices on such an occasion as necessarily representing agreement with or acceptance of such criticism.

While the Court is independent and co-equal, it and the judicial branch are an essential part of the U.S. Government. On an occasion when a the leading official of another branch of that government, the President and leader of the executive branch, accounts publicly to Congress, the legislative branch, and the American people for the current state of the nation for which all three branches of the Government have responsibility, it is appropriate for the members of the Court to represent the judicial branch, just as others represent the executive and legislative branches.

As Justice Breyer properly notes, it is important for all American citizens to be reminded visually on such an occasion that the Court and the judicial branch are an essential part of our Government, and are entrusted by our Constitution with the power and responsibility to sit in judgment upon the constitutionality of actions by the President and the Congress.

Justice Breyer appears to have the maturity and poise to recognize these things (although he might perhaps characterize them differently). If other members of the Court are so immature and thin-skinned that they cannot tolerate even one instance of public disagreement with or criticism of their own decisions and actions, and they feel that what they should do is take their marbles home and sulk, there is little that any individual American citizen can do to persuade them otherwise.

Posted by: 02Pete | December 12, 2010 3:24 PM | Report abuse

Any Supreme Court Justice who doesn't attend the President's State of the Union Address is UNWORTHY of a position on the Supreme Court. The Court is supposed to consist of members of outstanding judgment, wisdom and moral stature.
Unfortunately, we are stuck with Alito, Roberts, Thomas and Scalia.

Posted by: lufrank1 | December 12, 2010 3:00 PM | Report abuse

Crocodile tears for the justices who have to sit quietly and act respectful, no matter what is being said to them.

The shoe is less comfortable on the other foot, eh?

Posted by: mexaly | December 12, 2010 2:50 PM | Report abuse

Those who harangue Scalia and Thomas have obviously never read their decisions. I guess "judicial temperament" to liberals means foregoing your principles and adherence to the Constitution and falling into judicial activism lockstep.
And good save on the grammar correction, washpost!

Posted by: anne4 | December 12, 2010 2:33 PM | Report abuse

hazmat77 wrote>>>Obama had no right to criticize the Court's decision in a particular case in the forum of the State of the Union, knowing that the Justices would not be given the privilege of responding in the forum.

The rightwing Supremes had already responded....."corporations are people."
Pres. Obama was reacting to their absurd ruling that makes a mockery of democracy!

Campaign donations from people are limited - from corporations they're unlimited.

Posted by: angie12106 | December 12, 2010 2:11 PM | Report abuse

After corporations donated unlimited amounts to Republicans to do their bidding, it's obvious now that Pres. Obama was correct and rightwing Alito LIED.

Posted by: angie12106 | December 12, 2010 2:06 PM | Report abuse


The fact that this is an issue shows us how our government has been corrupted by Right-wing politics.

Scalia and Thomas have no judicial temperament - they are hard-line conservatives, bent on twisting, distorting, and perverting our laws to conform to their hateful Fascist tendencies. They went out of their way to find an excuse to allow crooked corporations and foreign interests to BUY OUR GOVERNMENT.

It is time to cleanse the Supreme Court of the Conservative Political Activists who inflicted The Dubya and all of the Bush Disasters upon us when they stopped counting the votes.

Since then, our economy has been wrecked, the treasury looted, our Armed Forces raped and wasted, our government infected with political operatives in important posts. They have sent our sons and daughters to kill the sons and daughters and fathers and mothers, and children and babies, of others, who had done NOTHING to us.

We are still mired in their bleeding, festering, Bush Wars, unable to extricate ourselves. Our crumbling infrastructure cannot be be rebuilt because we wasted all our resources in the mass killings in Iraq, . . . for NOTHING but reputations as killers and War Criminals. The cost of these disasters has resulted in the World's Biggest Bad Debt.

Let the Conservative Political Wing of the Supreme Court stay home: They can use the time to figure out a way to PAY FOR THEIR BUSH WARS.

Meanwhile, . . how do we get our government back from the corporations?

Posted by: gkam | December 12, 2010 2:00 PM | Report abuse

I can't wait until the House starts using subpoena power to find out how many crimes the democrats and obama have been committing since 2006.

We will see how many democrats are gone at the State of the Union address. As long as the teleprompter is there, obama will know how to talk.

Posted by: COOLCHILLY | December 12, 2010 1:37 PM | Report abuse

Well, we have had a very well-funded election since Justice Alito made his infamous remark. Congress has failed to pass legislation requiring the disclosure of major donor identities. We do have corrupting foreign entities funding political messages, as well as anonymous corporate sponsorship of "political grassroots" organizations.
I wonder if Justice Alito still believes that Obama's statement is "not true"?

Posted by: OldUncleTom | December 12, 2010 1:30 PM | Report abuse

Go, don't do, nobody cares. As we have known since at least Bush v. Gore, we have the best Supreme Court money can buy.

Posted by: usemark1 | December 12, 2010 1:20 PM | Report abuse

Redistrbuting wealth only destroys it.

Posted by: tonym1 | December 12, 2010 1:04 PM | Report abuse

Hazmat77 made the assertion that Justice Breyer is wrong.

Breyer never stated there was an obligation. He stated it was very important.

Your stand makes it clear that you are comfortable with corporations and other countries purchasing their political interest for the direction for this country.

Thanks for being a contributing member of society that cares about this nation!

Posted by: Badger21 | December 12, 2010 12:35 PM | Report abuse

"Alito, at one point, mouthed the words "not true" when Obama criticized the court for "opening the floodgates" to corporate money in elections through its decision in the Citizens United case."

Just wondering if Alito still thinks that's not true...? What a tool of corporate and ultra rich special interests.

Posted by: CalifObserver | December 12, 2010 12:34 PM | Report abuse

"Alito, at one point, mouthed the words "not true" when Obama criticized the court for "opening the floodgates" to corporate money in elections through its decision in the Citizens United case."

Just wondering if Alito still thinks that's not true...? What a tool of corporate and ultra rich interests.

Posted by: CalifObserver | December 12, 2010 12:33 PM | Report abuse

"Alito, at one point, mouthed the words "not true" when Obama criticized the court for "opening the floodgates" to corporate money in elections through its decision in the Citizens United case."

Just wondering if Alito still thinks that's not true...? What a tool of corporate and ultra rich interests.

Posted by: CalifObserver | December 12, 2010 12:32 PM | Report abuse

Breyer is wrong, as usual.

There is no provision in the Constitution that imposes an obligation on the member of SCOTUS to attend a lecture by the Executive. Especially if they are not invited to comment.

Obama had no right to criticize the Court's decision in a particular case in the forum of the State of the Union, knowing that the Justices would not be given the privilege of responding in the forum.

Especially since Obama was wrong as usual in his interpretation of the case.

Posted by: Hazmat77 | December 12, 2010 12:20 PM | Report abuse

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