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Chief Justice Roberts should scalp his SOTU tickets

What would you do if you had Super Bowl tickets you couldn't use? Or great seats to the opera on a night you were scheduled to be out of town? Most of us would either try to sell (i.e., scalp) them or give them away to family members or very, very good friends. Maybe that's what the justices of the Supreme Court should consider doing with their coveted front-row seats to the State of the Union.

It's no secret that this year's SOTU wasn't exactly festive for some of the attending justices -- particularly those who voted to throw out certain corporate spending limits in election-related matters. With six justices sitting front and center, President Obama peered down from the podium and diplomatically but unequivocally blasted the decision, arguing that it would open the floodgates to corporate cash, including from foreign donors. Justice Samuel A. Alito, until then sitting meekly in the second row reserved for those in robes, mouthed "not true" in response to some of the president's assertions.

I didn't see anything wrong with the president's behavior or that of Alito. But Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. has a point when he wonders about whether members of the high court should attend these partisan events. "The image of having the members of one branch of government standing up, literally surrounding the Supreme Court, cheering and hollering while the court -- according the requirements of protocol -- has to sit there expressionless, I think is very troubling," The Associated Press quotes Roberts as saying in response to a question following a speech Tuesday to University of Alabama law students. "I'm not sure why we're there."

There may have been a time when the State of the Union was just that -- a reportorial discourse by the president to members of the other two branches about the state of the country. But the speech has become yet another opportunity for the president to spin and push his political agenda. Nothing really wrong with that, except that it makes the justices' presence a bit odd -- especially because they're expected to sit in stone-faced silence.

Politicians are given a measure of latitude to boo, cheer and clap during these dog-and-pony shows, but even they overstep their bounds. Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) was roundly criticized when he shouted "you lie" at Obama during the president's 2009 address to Congress. Imagine the hoopla had the shouter been a member of the court. Can anyone say "impeachment"? Members of the Joint Chiefs also customarily sit through the speech without reaction, but the president is their commander-in-chief, their boss, after all.

Sitting in Sphynx-like silence could be taken as a sign of the justices' respect for a government of laws and not of man, an indication of their respect for the office of the president, if not the president himself. But there's nothing in the constitution that says they must attend, and I wouldn't blame some of them (read: conservative justices who are likely to annoy the president with future decisions) if they decided to join Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas in declining to make the trek from the court to the capitol. Who knows? Sometime early next year Alito and Roberts may suddenly discover that they have tickets to the hot show of the season and they just happen to be on the same night as the State of the Union. Bummer. But look on the bright side: They might break even on the theater tickets if they find buyers for the ring-side passes to the capitol.

By Eva Rodriguez  | March 10, 2010; 3:27 PM ET
Categories:  Rodriguez  | Tags:  Eva Rodriguez  
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Comments

Was there ever a time when the SOTU was not used to set a policy agenda? I'm curious.

Posted by: ideallydc | March 10, 2010 4:32 PM | Report abuse

Reagan and W. Bush never did believe in law or regulation. The 5 pseudoconservatives of the court were put there to wait and watch and when possible do as much damage to sensible, necessary laws and regulations as possible. The damage these 5 have done and will do cannot and will not be fully known for decades.

Posted by: gradya3 | March 10, 2010 4:53 PM | Report abuse

There is no "decorum" in calling out a BAD decision such as that one.

In my personal view I would have chastised them for the entire State of the Union and then some- that's how BAD that decision is.

Roberts needs to grow up if he believes that the justices are above or beyond petty politics and criticism.

Posted by: dcperspective | March 10, 2010 5:12 PM | Report abuse

Roberts strikes me as something of a baby. I can't respect his crying and fussing over Obama's criticism. It smacks of guilt. If he's proud of his decision, then sit there proudly and confidently. If he's a bit scared of Obama, and frankly, he seems to be -- ever since he flubbed the oath of office by trying to memorize it and failing. Obama had to be the gracious one, protecting the dignity of Roberts. I'm disappointed with both Roberts and Alito, and furthermore, if they're going to be partisan in their decisions, which they do seem to be, then how can they complain about "having to attend" the State of Union. Grow some courage, Roberts. We could use some dignity, as well as some objective justice, from you.

Posted by: cturtle1 | March 10, 2010 5:33 PM | Report abuse

Roberts is a Wimp!

Posted by: Fate1 | March 10, 2010 7:03 PM | Report abuse

Chief Justice Roberts was dead right.

While the Court is there to uphold the Constitution by study of law and making rulings, the majority party of Congress is there to do all it can to get around it or destroy its rulings, by whatever means it can. And the State of the Union Address, delivered by the Majority Party President, as Obama is, has turned it into a pep rally for that anti-court-rulings sentiment.

So how long will it be before Obama, backed by the Democrats, starts talking about locking up the Chief Justices, as all the tinpot dictatorship around the world do when they don't get their way?

Now what is the public rating of the Congress, again, versus the public opinion of the Supreme Court and President? Both Congress - 24% and Obama - 43% rate lower than the Supreme Court - 63% - the highest rating in a decade.

Watch out you POTUS apologists and SCOTUS bashers, the American public has its own way of taking back control of America. Its 'precedence' was 1776.


Posted by: dave19 | March 10, 2010 8:55 PM | Report abuse

The wingnuts were the ones who thought it was fine when DeJerk from South Carolina shouted 'You Lie!' at the President of the United States during the State of the Union, right?

Posted by: orange3 | March 10, 2010 9:02 PM | Report abuse

Well, the cry baby Chief Justice should keep his butt at home if he can't take criticism. He lied or refused to answer questions during his confirmation hearings. As soon as he got on the court, he started pushing through his agenda. He's lucky Obama didn't ream him for screwing up the oath of office during Obama's inauguration.

Posted by: PepperDr | March 10, 2010 9:34 PM | Report abuse

Roberts is a bit of a whiner, isn't he? Those Bushes sure know how to evaluate talent when it comes to legal jurisprudence don't they? Alito...Roberts....Thomas...what a record (sorry, but Harriet Myers didn't make the cut).

Posted by: AHappyWarrior | March 10, 2010 9:55 PM | Report abuse

The point is that there are 3 co-equal parts of the government. Obama can rail all he wants, the Supreme Court is his equal. If he is going to be a cry baby, then they should stay home. He isn't king.

Posted by: navarch | March 10, 2010 10:22 PM | Report abuse

Robertson lied in his Senate confirmation. The decision was a complete reversal of settled law. He also lied when he claimed that he was surrounded by a mob of Democrats and was forced to endure it silently.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k92SerxLWtc

Does that look like an angry mob to you??

Posted by: thebobbob | March 11, 2010 1:04 AM | Report abuse

If Roberts felt uncomfortably powerless having to sit there quietly without the opportunity to speak back to the president, he should try being an ordinary American, whose voice is now drowned out by the limitless deluge of corporate cash Mr. Roberts has allowed to purchase the rest of our beleaguered democracy.

That's real powerlessness, Mr. Roberts. And I will not call you "Justice" since you haven't the slightest clue what the term means.

Posted by: B2O2 | March 11, 2010 2:35 AM | Report abuse

I wonder if all the ideologues commenting here would be this angry if only labor unions had been given the freedom to spend as they see fit.

Posted by: pcoppney | March 11, 2010 1:55 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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