A few Supreme Court justices aren't excited about sitting
stone-faced through the "pep rally" atmosphere of the State of the Union
address. Instead of daydreaming about it during this year's speech,
Justice Alito has already booked
his ticket to Hawaii. Antonin Scalia and Chief Justice John Roberts
have both indicated their reluctance to attend the President's address,
especially after last year's "regrettable display of bad manners
when Obama publicly criticized the justices as
they sat in front of him. This year, observers are wondering if only Justices appointed by Democratic presidents
will be present at the proceedings, an undesirable scenario.
- I Hope John Roberts Doesn't Go To Hawaii, Too, writes the Washington Post's Eva Rodriguez,
who nevertheless notes that "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." Still, if
Roberts played the "bigger person" it would "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."
- A Running Tally: Looks Like the Dem
Appointees Will Be There At the New York Times, Adam Liptak observes
that it's a "decent bet" that Justices Breyer, Ginsberg, Kagan and
Sotomayer "will be present Tuesday night." As for Republican appointees?
"Justice Alito is out; Justices Scalia and Thomas appear to be long
shots; and Justice Kennedy, as usual, could go either way," Liptake
figures. "Chief Justice Roberts, who is deeply concerned about the
court’s authority and prestige, may be weighing the costs of attending
an event he has found distasteful against the possibility of a televised
tableau showing only justices appointed by Democratic presidents
turning up to hear a Democratic president's address."
- Scalia Probably Isn't Going and It's Not Really a Surprise, notes Outside the Beltway's James Joyner, citing Scalia's statement, quoted in The Hill: "[I] haven't gone to the State of the Union in at least 10
years, and I'm not starting tomorrow night either." Joyner writes:
"Scalia is right not to lend the credence of the judiciary to what has
long been a partisan pep rally. But inertia is not news."
- They Don't Seem to Have a Problem Attending Other 'Pep Rallies,' notes Slate's Dahlia Lithwick,
who writes that some of the same justices who complain about the
"spectacle" of the SOTU, "have shown themselves all too willing to
appear in other settings where ideological hectoring is not just part of
the program but seemingly the entire objective." She explains:
Scalia and several of his colleagues routinely attend the Red Mass,
which occurs every fall. And if the State of the Union is too
embarrassingly political and partisan to endure, how is teaching a
constitution class for the Tea Party Caucus the day before any less so?
Isn't it preferable for a member of the Supreme Court to attend openly
partisan events that are televised—and to do so en masse—than to attend
those that happen in secret? If anything is likely to harm the prestige
of the court, it's this bizarre project of selective invisibility on
which some of the justices have set themselves.
- It All Comes Down To Judicial Etiquette concludes The Atlantic's Garrett Eps,
remarking on the "certain sloppiness of action has lately crept over
the federal bench." On Justice Roberts attending this years' SOTU
proceedings, he writes:
No one doubts that he has deep
philosophical differences with the Obama Administration, as well he
might. But he is also the head of the federal judicial branch, and he
seems to takes his institutional responsibilities as seriously as his
own views. As head of the institution, then, he might consider it his
duty to be present even for some tedious or unpleasant public events.
He might also consider asking the divas with whom he sits to come and
sit in their front-row seats without throwing spitballs. Or he might
decide that the risks to the institution were greater from attending
than from staying away.
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