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Posted at 10:15 AM ET, 01/25/2011

Will Chief Justice Roberts attend the State of the Union?

By Eva Rodriguez

Sam Alito won't be there, but will John Roberts?

I'm talking, of course, of the president's State of the Union Address and the question of whether Republican Supreme Court appointees will attend.

You'll recall that the speech raised a stink last year when President Obama criticized the Supreme Court for its Citizens United decision, describing the 5-4 ruling as having thrown out a century's worth of laws restricting corporations' campaign contributions. Obama's description was imprecise, at best; that prompted Justice Alito to shake his head and mouth the words "not true." This relatively mild exchange prompted much angst -- from those who thought Obama breached decorum by wagging a finger at the captive justices, as well as those who thought Alito's reaction was inappropriately political.

In a speech a couple months later, Chief Justice Roberts recalled the episode as "very troubling" and wondered whether the justices should attend an event that had devolved into a "political pep rally."

Alito, a Bush II appointee, has already made his choice: He is in Hawaii this week. It's not clear whether Washington's frigid temperatures or frosty political climate convinced him to seek shelter in more hospitable corners. Justice Anthony Kennedy, who attended last year's speech, has not announced his plans. The other two Republican appointees on the court -- Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas -- typically don't grace the president with their presence.

I hope Roberts makes a different choice.

I understand the chief justice's unease. It could not have been pleasant to sit Sphinx-like in the chamber as the president chastised the court and Democrats jumped from their seats in a raucous ovation. But declining to attend would be a mistake.

Roberts has been at every state of the union since his confirmation in 2005. His absence on Tuesday would be interpreted as a snub to Obama and would create the impression that the president's words still pained him. Showing up, on the other hand, would prove that Roberts is above the fray, unfazed by attacks and unbowed by pressure -- judicial independence incarnate. It would also send an unmistakable message that the best interests of the country must always trump personal grievances.

In some ways, it's not fair to ask Roberts to be the bigger person. He, after all, did not assail the president or misrepresent one of his policies. But unlike the justices, the president has little choice but to show up to his own speech. That's why all eyes will be on Roberts.

By Eva Rodriguez  | January 25, 2011; 10:15 AM ET
Categories:  Rodriguez  | Tags:  Eva Rodriguez  
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Comments

Quotation marks are unnecessary, the speech has devolved into a political pep rally. It has become unseemly and even inappropriate for the Justices to "participate" in the yearly campaign speech.

There is no requirement for the Justices to attend, nor for the Joint Chiefs. As stated in the Constitution, "He shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union,..."

Posted by: kitchendragon50 | January 25, 2011 10:14 AM | Report abuse

kitchendragon50; all,

"KD50": more to the point, i feel that attendance at "the obama pep rally" by the members of SCOTUS is, at best, UNSEEMLY.

to all: if i had my way, NOBODY would attend the SOTU. then perhaps "the annointed one" would finally figure out that he is considered, by intelligent people, to be:
1. supremely UNqualified for the office that he occupies,
2. arrogant,
3. frequently angry to no good purpose,
4. a pitiful weakling, who is an embarrassment to the USA, both at home & abroad,
5. not particuliarly intelligent
and
6. an abject FAILURE as POTUS.

fear not gentle readers, obama's last day in office will be the morning of 01/20/13. - whoever the TEA PARTY candidate is will HUMILIATE him (or whomever wins the DIMocRATS primary). = i am not convinced that BHO will run again in the primaries. i think that perhaps (and just perhaps, as he is terminally SELF-impressed & arrogant) he is bright enough to see that he cannot win the general election & will "retire to pursue other important interests".

otoh, IF "the annointed one" runs again in the election of 2012, he will lose by an unprecedented landslide & permanently sink the DIMocRATS, as a major political party.

yours, TN46
coordinator, CCTPP

Posted by: texasnative46 | January 25, 2011 11:38 AM | Report abuse

Showing up, on the other hand, would prove that Roberts is above the fray, unfazed by attacks and unbowed by pressure -- judicial independence incarnate. It would also send an unmistakable message that the best interests of the country must always trump personal grievances.

===========================================

The Chief Justice can give the same message by not showing up and having his seat empty. That will show that he would not tolerate being a political prop to an arrogant president.

Posted by: bbface21 | January 25, 2011 11:38 AM | Report abuse

Wow, texasnative46, they must grow some good weed down your way. But enjoy the trip. We all will still be here when you come back to Earth.

Posted by: Floretta | January 25, 2011 12:13 PM | Report abuse

There is no reason for any of the Supreme Court Justices to be present at the SOTU. They do not report to the President and it is probably bad for them to be subjected to the Presidential Party line. Last year Obama disrespected the Supreme Court by misstating the decision they made in a very negative and untrue way and the Members of the Supreme Court were made to sit in silence and be insulted. A sign of surprise and disagreement with the misstatement of the President on the part of a Member of the Supreme Court was attacked visciously in spite of the fact that the President publicly lied. If Justice Roberts attends it is because he is a better man than the President. But there is no reason on earth that Justice Roberts must be at the SOTU. The SOTU is simply a political occasion.

Posted by: mlbduffy | January 25, 2011 12:41 PM | Report abuse

Eve, why could this possibly matter? Slow news day?

Posted by: bravegirl01 | January 25, 2011 1:13 PM | Report abuse

Wow, texasnative46, they must grow some good weed down your way. But enjoy the trip. We all will still be here when you come back to Earth.

----------------------

He's doing a lot more than just weed. I just hope his trailer doesn't catch fire.

Posted by: sr31 | January 25, 2011 1:21 PM | Report abuse

CJ Roberts is and always was the better man. Let trash-talker Obama spew his nonsense to cheerleaders like Nancy Pelosi and uncle Joe Biden.

Let the Speech of Speciousness & the Rally for Ridiculousness commence without the Chief Justice's presence.

Posted by: adamnescot1 | January 25, 2011 1:29 PM | Report abuse

Yes Eva, how DARE the President of the United States express his displeasure with John Roberts' putting our Republic up for auction on eBay! How difficult it must have been for Herr Roberts to have to sit and listen to Obama calmly express what 80% of Americans were rightly appalled at. Obama should have just said "thank you Sir, may we have ANOTHER one?" or "what else would your corporate clients desire from us, Justice Roberts?".

Poor John. Having to sit through 60 seconds of accountability for his selling out the nation in its hour of need. I am SO sympathetic to this oppressed holdover from the deposed royalty of our former British colonial overlords.

And please stay in Hawaii, Scalito-scum. Our democracy doesn't need fascists like you either.

Posted by: B2O2 | January 25, 2011 1:29 PM | Report abuse

Ms. Rodriguez you are full of it.

"President Obama criticized the Supreme Court for its Citizens United decision, describing the 5-4 ruling as having thrown out a century's worth of laws restricting corporations' campaign contributions. Obama's description was imprecise, at best;"

Obama was, in fact, right on the money, money being the operative word here. The Citizens United decision has weakened what's left of democracy in this country and strengthened the corporate control of elections and the government.

Ms. Rodriguez I am disgusted by your lack of patriotism. It is people like you who are allowing this country to become nothing more than a corporate franchise. You should be ashamed of yourself.

Posted by: greeenmtns | January 25, 2011 1:42 PM | Report abuse

It is the Supreme Court which has evolved into politically unseemly behanvior. Scalia has been off speaking to the Tea Party; Thomas has been caught failing to file information on his wife's income and partipation with the right wing organization of the Heritage Foudation. Robers thinly disguises his political alliance and his decisions have been ignoring long established law and rewriting the constitution to the right. It is a disgrace.

Posted by: withersb | January 25, 2011 1:52 PM | Report abuse

Who gives a fig if a political hack like Roberts comes or not?

Posted by: scientist1 | January 25, 2011 1:55 PM | Report abuse

Alito's "response" is just another example of the right taking the ball and going home when things don't go there way.

Many of us had to suffer through illegal and corrupt Bush years; yet the the SCOTUS tacitly condoned his actions by sitting on their duffs at BUSH SOTU

Posted by: Anadromous2 | January 25, 2011 1:55 PM | Report abuse

Here's the bad news, Eva. 80% of America stood with the President that day when he called our treasonous Supreme Court on what they did to this country:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/02/17/AR2010021701151.html

There's a reason our founders created three branches of government, Eva. You might recall something from your high school civics class about "checks and balances". The president is not required to sit still for one of the other branches selling the country off, it turns out.

I realize you're just doing your regular required kowtowing to Mr. Hiatt and his anti-American agenda in order to keep your job. I don't envy you that.

Posted by: B2O2 | January 25, 2011 1:55 PM | Report abuse

Congress has tried to set the tone with bipartisan seating. I expect the president's speech to be his most centrist to date. Roberts should follow suit by attending tonight.

Posted by: drischord | January 25, 2011 1:57 PM | Report abuse


‘ It would also send an unmistakable message that the best interests of the country must always trump personal grievances. ‘


The BEST interests of the country are served by those elected by the people. Roberts and the SC’s ONLY purpose are to ensure Laws fit within the framework of the US Constitution.


I wish NONE of the SC would be there at the State of the Union. It is a political event and the SC should NOT be involved for or against anything. They should only see if the Constitution is being followed!


Posted by: bcarte1 | January 25, 2011 2:13 PM | Report abuse

The author is rightly getting trashed for not supporting her characterization of Obama's criticism of one SCOTUS decision. "Imprecise, at best" deserves an explanation of what was imprecise about Obama's charge.
Perhaps tonight Obama will amend his comments and criticize the idea of treating corporations as individuals and encourage scotus to take up a case that challenges that treatment under the law. There would be a lot individual people who would attend a pep rally for that idea, but probably only 4 such people on the court.

Posted by: martin44 | January 25, 2011 2:25 PM | Report abuse

The author is rightly getting trashed for not supporting her characterization of Obama's criticism of one SCOTUS decision. "Imprecise, at best" deserves an explanation of what was imprecise about Obama's charge.
Perhaps tonight Obama will amend his comments and criticize the idea of treating corporations as individuals and encourage scotus to take up a case that challenges that treatment under the law. There would be a lot individual people who would attend a pep rally for that idea, but probably only 4 such people on the court.

Posted by: martin44 | January 25, 2011 2:29 PM | Report abuse

Chief Justice Roberts will be in attendance. He is a man of character, integrity, intelligence and honor.

The same could not be said of Mr Alito.

Posted by: SupremeEgos | January 25, 2011 4:04 PM | Report abuse

I think Roberts should attend and stand up and boo if Obama makes another bonehead criticism of the Supremem Court's decision. It is enough to have to be silent and criticised to one's face while surrounded by cheering politicians. Frankly, I would stand up and boo. One disrespectful turn deserves another. And if any whiny liberal Democrats think I'm wrong ...too bad - you libs used to eviscerate Bush...a little booing to Obama's face might lower that ego some.

Posted by: steven7753 | January 25, 2011 4:11 PM | Report abuse

If Roberts shows his sell-out behind, I hope President Obama says, you remember last year when I said that your decision handed our elections over to anonymous corporations? Well, looking at this last election, I have to say, I told you so. I really wonder, Roberts, if you thought you could only give power to the multinational corporations with US names, or did you realize you gave China the keys to our house as well.

Posted by: kamdog | January 25, 2011 4:12 PM | Report abuse

Roberts and the rest of the activist judges who deemed corporations to be the same as people, were wrong and the president was right to call them out on it. Going back on 100 years of precedent was legislating from the bench.

And Alito can stay in Hawaii and polute that place rether than Washington.

Posted by: COLEBRACKETT | January 25, 2011 4:15 PM | Report abuse

The President's criticism of Citizen's United was a comment by a person whose record of legal academic achievement is greater than Roberts' and the comment itself was within the range of fair comment. It was much less harsh than some academic comment. The court writes opinions so its judgments are subjected to public scrutiny and criticism. That's what happened. Mr. Roberts should neither be surprised nor offended. He should glory instead in a democracy that allows that to happen. But one ascertains from Roberts' writings that democracy is not a favorite form for that Big Government elitist.

Posted by: djah | January 25, 2011 5:16 PM | Report abuse

The President's criticism of Citizen's United was a comment by a person whose record of legal academic achievement is greater than Roberts' and the comment itself was within the range of fair comment. It was much less harsh than some academic comment.

Posted by: djah | January 25, 2011 5:16 P

__________-

Oh my how delusional you are. Obama has a record of academic legal achievement? Prove it. What were his grades. What articles did he publish. How was he appointed to law review and why. Can't answer these can you - that's because everything about Obama's educational pursuits are sealed.

And do you know why academic comment is so harsh? It's because it's doesn't mean anything.

How about you start approaching things with an open mind. To do that you'll have to get your head out of Obama's a$#.

Posted by: bandmom22 | January 25, 2011 5:32 PM | Report abuse

It was the Repub-appointees to SCOTUS that handed Bush-the-lesser and Cheney-the-Halliburton-mouthpiece the POTUS-election of 2000, followed by 8 years of false-"leadership", featuring 2 less-than-successful far-off wars and a faltering economy, which "required" the feds to pump $7+ billion of imaginary-dollars onto the "red-ink page" of the federal ledger. In fact, that $7+ billion economic jump-start was proposed by the outgoing Bush/Cheney team, then implemented by Obama/Biden--inheritors of the mess created by their predecessors from 2001 to 2008. That Obama/Biden would be smacked upside-the-head by the federal elections of 11/02/10 mostly shows that the American electorate is less smart than it perceives itself to be: dummies who elect government and corporate-paid liars on the basis of their tv-commercials will get what they've mistakenly chosen: re-runs of the same governmental crap.

Posted by: marc85 | January 25, 2011 5:35 PM | Report abuse

Floretta; sr31; All,

to "Floretta" & "sr31": don't you wish that you were correct about "the fool who's in the WH"? = as you will see below, BHO is a DUNCE & what i said of him is 100% correct.
(lol AT you two chumps.)

to ALL: since the two "obama worshipers" above decided to show their arrogant ignorance of the facts about the "current occupant of the White House", let me tell you a story that you will NOT read in the main-SLIME, DIMocRAT-controlled media. - i KNOW as i was THERE & heard/saw this happen.

during the early spring of 2008, i was visiting a school chum & his lady "out of state". during the visit, Senator Obama came to town for a rally & speech & they asked me to go with them.
(i had truthfully never heard of BHO & was "curious" as to why a very junior IL Senator was running for POTUS & what he might say.)

the speech started & as usual BHO sounded fine. then the power went off, killing both the microphones & (more importantly for BHO) the teleprompter. BHO just stood there looking nervously around, obviously "NOT having a clue" as to what to do/say next.

at that point, a local DIMocRAT official asked the Senator to "take questions" from the audience. = the second or third question was from a young girl of perhaps 12 or 13YO.
she asked him, "Senator, what is your favorite movie?"

obama wildly looked around for someone/anyone to "rescue him" (he had that well-known "deer in the headlights look"), made a really pointless joke, thanked her for coming, said that youth are "the future of the world", that "change is coming" BUT never answered the little girl's simple question.
(note that she asked him which was HIS favorite movie. as a father of two girls of about that same age, he should have been able to "hit that one out of the park". = he could have named ANY movie!)

after the rally, we went to a nearby local cafe for "pie & coffee" & discovered numerous other people, who had also been at the rally. - the "table talk" was HOW STUPID & "LAME" that BHO's attempt to "deal with" a child's simple question was.
the consensus of the diners was that, "where the H did that idiot come from?", "he's finished.", "what a dumb-bunny" & "the press will crucify him for that foolishness".

face it folks, BHO is a "SCRIPTED", inconsequential nitwit, who can READ off a teleprompter WELL & NOTHING more than that. period. end of story. = i've come to the sad conclusion that ALL he "knows" is a collection of empty platitudes that "his handlers" have told him to read & that he can repeat endlessly (to the point of nausea, on the part of many listeners today), whether or not the platitudes "fit the question".

and that, gentle readers, is why BHO should RESIGN as POTUS and why he deserves to be (and WILL be) HUMILIATED in Nov 2012, if he decides to run (& can beat HRH in the primary!).

the sole "good thing" that i can think of about obama is that we won't be stuck with him for another term!


yours, TN46
coordinator,

Posted by: texasnative46 | January 25, 2011 5:38 PM | Report abuse

"The Chief Justice can give the same message by not showing up and having his seat empty. That will show that he would not tolerate being a political prop to an arrogant president."

The chief justice is the activist, arrogant one. If he chooses not to attend, that's fine- actually a bonus for the viewing public who would have one less member of the college of cardinals to have to look at.

Posted by: staussfamily | January 25, 2011 5:46 PM | Report abuse

The Republicans judges have been playing politics for a long time. They shame the court with their actions. Perhaps Thomas, for one, should consider resigning, since he cannot keep himself out of active politics.

The Supreme Court handed GW Bush the presidency in 2000 with a blatantly partisan decision. Obama's words were true. Their partisan ruling on campaign financing allowed the Teas Party to have it hour of glory in the last election. To pretend they value the law as much as their partisan interests is being deliberately obtuse.

Whatever happened to the supposed neutrality of the law?


Posted by: samsara15 | January 25, 2011 5:47 PM | Report abuse

"the sole "good thing" that i can think of about obama is that we won't be stuck with him for another term!"

How do you figure? Are you planning on Texas seceding by then? I hope that works out fer ya!

Posted by: staussfamily | January 25, 2011 5:51 PM | Report abuse

Our Constitution establishes a tricameral government in which the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government are all intended to act as checks and balances upon each other.

That includes the President, as the head of the Executive Branch, acting as a check upon the Supreme Court, as the head of the Judicial Branch, by expressing his views when the Court issues what he considers to be a badly reasoned and misguided decision. Doing so is not simply appropriate, as part of his communicating to Congress, the Supreme Court and the American people his views on major issues facing the country. It is the President's Constitutional duty, authority and responsibility to do so.

The Supreme Court regularly hands out decisions in which its Justices not only invalidate actions taken by the Executive Branch or the Legislative Branch, but express pointed criticism of the President or Congress for what the Justices perceive to be their shortcomings. While the Justices may speak through their decisions rather than through the State of the Union address, they definitely do speak. It is not in the least inappropriate for the President to respond, on the merits, when they do so on issues which the President considers to be of national importance.

As President Harry Truman reportedly once remarked, "If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen." Supreme Court Justices who overturn more than 100 years of settled federal and state statutory and case law, based on thin to nonexistent Constitutional grounds, in a case with not only major short-term political consequences but major long-term implications for the health of American democracy, should have the maturity to recognize and the character to accept that such a decision may be subject to public comment by other Constitutional officers who do not agree with it. If they don't have sufficient poise and self-discipline to hear such criticism in a public forum, then they lack the necessary qualities to serve as Justices on the Supreme Court.

The Constitutional purpose of the State of the Union address is to tell the Congress, the Court and the people of our country what the President thinks is important for them to consider for the good of the country. It is not intended to flatter the Justices' egos, strew rose petals in their paths, or celebrate their wisdom. If they don't have the personal courage to hear what the President thinks of their decisions, then they lack the character to serve as Justices on the Court.

For those reasons, and many others, the Justices should attend the President's State of the Union address. Their presence does not necessarily express any agreement with his remarks, but it does show the participation of the Judicial Branch in a Constitutionally mandated function. Justices who fail to attend, out of personal pique, are merely revealing their own immaturity and lack of character.

Posted by: 02Pete | January 25, 2011 6:44 PM | Report abuse

"Our Constitution establishes a tricameral government in which the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government are all intended to act as checks and balances upon each other."

Yes indeed. Sadly, all three can be corrupted by money. - maybe the most important "check"

Posted by: staussfamily | January 25, 2011 6:55 PM | Report abuse

Anadromous2 wrote:

Alito's "response" is just another example of the right taking the ball and going home when things don't go there way.
__________________________________________

No, it's about the Court being a separate branch of our government - and their right to not attend.

Look, Obama totally blew it last year with his finger-in-the-eye of the Court. He thought he was better than the Court. Wrong. Fact is, this guy isn't qualified to carry Roberts' water.

Posted by: wearedoomed1 | January 25, 2011 6:56 PM | Report abuse

It is very clear that the Republican Supreme Court paved the way for a corporate takeover of America and the eventual impoverishment of the middle class.

Posted by: sdanielson | January 25, 2011 7:02 PM | Report abuse

I found Jonathan Turley's editorial about the politicization of the supreme court, much of it by Anton Scalia, to be more insightful than this piece. If the supreme court aspires to be unconnected to politics, they should first look to their own actions and words.

Posted by: underhill | January 25, 2011 7:37 PM | Report abuse

someone said:

"Can't answer these can you - that's because everything about Obama's educational pursuits are sealed."

I seem to remember that W's service recordx was sealed, but the right didn't much get their underwear in a bunch about that, did they?

Posted by: underhill | January 25, 2011 7:47 PM | Report abuse

The Supremes who gave handed Citizens United victory and told us that corporations have the right to influence elections in this so-called Democracy are a disgrace and need to stay away.

Posted by: cile92 | January 25, 2011 8:30 PM | Report abuse

Who on earth gives a rat's a_ss whether johnny-boy attends? Does he really matter? Of COURSE NOT.

Posted by: spike591011 | January 25, 2011 10:01 PM | Report abuse

underhill; all,

to "underhill": actually, you are 100% WRONG.

with the exception of BHO, EVERY candidate for POTUS in the last 30+ years has made their personal/academic/tax/other records available to the press, including those of VPOTUS Joe Biden.
(even Bill Clinton & Richard Nixon released their academic records!)

it is therefore fair to ask: WHAT is BHO hiding?
especially, WHY has he had his actual birth certificate & childhood health records "permanently sealed" by the state of HI?
(i suspect, but do NOT know, that he is hiding the circumstances of his birth, i.e., that his parents were not married. - IF i am correct, this is NOT his fault & that, in today's world, is quite common.)

yours, TN46
coordinator, CCTPP

Posted by: texasnative46 | January 26, 2011 10:43 AM | Report abuse

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