Will the Supremes show tonight? Update: 6 of 9 to attend

posted at 9:30 am on January 25, 2011 by Ed Morrissey

Last year, President Obama publicly upbraided the Supreme Court during his State of the Union speech for its Citizens United decision, claiming — incorrectly — that it reversed “a century of law.”  In fact, it reversed the McCain-Feingold law that barred corporations from spending money on political advertising within a certain period of time before an election, not the “century of law” that barred corporations from donating to political candidates, which is still very much in place.  Justice Samuel Alito knew the difference, which is why he shook his head and mouthed the words “not true,” which so offended Obama that the White House continued its ignorant attack on the Supreme Court for another few days rather than picking up the decision and reading it.

Now CBS wonders whether the Supremes will bother to show tonight — and at least some of them will find other ways to keep themselves amused rather than participate in what Justice Antonin Scalia calls “a juvenile spectacle”:

And ever since, we’ve all wondered whether any of them would return to another State of the Union. Ever again.

So we can take Alito off the guest list. But don’t go all “Justice Alito is still mad as hell over what happened last year, and he’s not going to take it anymore, so he invented an excuse to go up to Baltimore for the night.” No. Negative. Alito had a long-standing teaching engagement in Hawaii.

That leaves eight others. I’d say we can also scratch off Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas from the “YES” list. Scalia told me in an interview at the Federalist Society dinner last fall not to expect him. “It is a juvenile spectacle, and I resent being called upon to give it dignity,” he said. “It’s really not appropriate for the justices to be there.” So that sounds to me like a big N-O. And Thomas doesn’t go for similar reasons.

Now we’re down to six. Moderate conservative Justice Anthony Kennedy seems to like all that pomp and circumstance, but he didn’t appreciate the president’s shot last year (he wrote the campaign finance decision). So will he stay away? And then what about the four liberals: Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan? Maybe they’d like to attend, since it will be Kagan’s first chance as a new justice, and she can wear that black robe and look inscrutable.

And this is where it gets really interesting. If Kennedy stays home and the four liberals decide to go, then what does Chief Justice John Roberts do? He so does not *get* why justices go to the State of the Union in the first place, and he’s criticized the event for having degenerated into a “political pep rally.”

In the best of all possible worlds, the Supreme Court would decide as a group whether to attend or not and then unanimously follow through on that decision.  Obviously, we don’t see a lot of unanimous decisions on the law from the court, but this question deserves some thought not just for this presidency but as a tradition.  Roberts is right that the State of the Union has long since become a political pep rally, something that started long before Obama, and as the one ostensibly non-political and non-partisan branch of government, the captive presence of the Supreme Court among the partisan cheers is quite unseemly.

If Roberts can’t get unanimity, though, the members of the court who are in town at the appointed time of the SOTU should make an appearance.  Having just the liberal judges show for Obama and then presumably just the conservative justices show for a Republican President would be even more unseemly.  Having been the target of the White House political team after last year’s SOTU, Alito can certainly be excused.  And perhaps the members of the court can at least agree that an explicit attack on one of their decisions by a President in a State of the Union speech in the future will result in the entire court walking out on the rest of the speech, in what would be the only rebuke that the court’s members can deliver in that setting.

Update: Fox News reported earlier that six of nine will attend tonight, with Alito and Scalia definitely out.  Although no announcement has been made, the third no-show is believed to be Clarence Thomas, who had earlier stated that he would not attend due to the “partisan atmosphere” of these events.


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Why isnt HA talking about Bachmann’s speech while RYAN is setup to deliver for the GOP? Bachmann is a first class idiot!

conservador on January 25, 2011 at 12:25 PM

The question should not be will the Supremes show.

The better question is will I, FlameWarrior, show?

Answer: no.

And I encourage all of you to join me tonight in not showing.

Go do something much more constructive than subject yourselves to a lot of seductively pretty words spoken through a forked tongue.

Screw that. Let Rush and Ed and Allah be the ones to suffer. They’re paid to listen to Obama’s crap; we’re not. Tune back in tomorrow and enjoy their reportage.

FlameWarrior on January 25, 2011 at 12:33 PM

One can’t wear all black on
Prom Night!

OkieDoc on January 25, 2011 at 12:34 PM

One can’t wear all black on
Prom Night!

OkieDoc on January 25, 2011 at 12:34 PM

if it’s strapless you can.

wi farmgirl on January 25, 2011 at 12:36 PM

Only the justices who are guided principally by politics, and not law, should go to these pep rallies.

RBMN on January 25, 2011 at 9:51 AM

Close, so close….

Anyone guided principally by partisanship, and not law or governance, should go. They should hold it in a gym somewhere and hand out t-shirts. And every elected official who attends should be primaried — of whatever party.

We get two views of government — one, of the rah-rah “our side is #1!” and “stick it in your face, losers!” variety; the other, a long hard slog of trying to do what works in the face of millions of citizen desires and thousands of government slackers and bureaucratic empire-builders. Neither one is very pretty to begin with, even if done well; if done poorly, as with the current administration, they prompt visceral revulsion.

cthulhu on January 25, 2011 at 12:49 PM

I can’t watch Obama speak. Too much drama; the nose in the air, continually pausing for affect, the lies. Maybe I’ll read it tomorrow.

Rose on January 25, 2011 at 12:50 PM

Whoever thought up the idea of cats and dogs sitting together in the SOTU address for the DEMs is a genius. What better way to avoid the optics of how badly Obama was routed in the last election than by not having only one side giving him standing ovations, and letting the nation know just how small that side is getting, than to mix everyone together so that standing ovations look larger than they are. Fortunately only 60 or so fell for it. If SCOTUS did not show, that would be sweet, but don’t say anything until the last minute so the seats remain empty.

AverageJoe on January 25, 2011 at 12:57 PM

Having been the target of the White House political team after last year’s SOTU, Alito can certainly be excused.

But Kennedy wrote the Decision being criticized, can he also be excused for that reason? How about the other Justices who voted in the majority and then had the President lie about what they did and how it worked?

If we’re letting Alito off because the President attacked him… let’s be honest; the President attacked the majority of the SCOTUS by lying about the ruling. Shouldn’t we let those who voted in the majority skip for the same reason?

Now at this point you’ve just left the Liberal Justices as the ones who would attend; but they’re the only ones who didn’t have the President lie about their ruling. If they’re ok with having their fellow SCOTUS members attacked by a President of their political leaning for Partisan reasons then they should absolutely attend and show their partisan support.

It’s good to know who is on what side after all…

gekkobear on January 25, 2011 at 12:58 PM

The little dictator speaks, and by golly they better show up. pffffffffft.

I say they stand together, and boycott this time around. Give Obama a piece of their mind, thru protest. Obama needs to learn his place as well. He’s a president, that is vulnerable, and easily voted out by the people. The SOTU is not the time, nor the place to scold the Supremes, because of his personal opinions on a case.

Save it Obutthead. We’re not interested.

capejasmine on January 25, 2011 at 1:03 PM

What Roberts should do is to have the House page place a printed copy of the McCain-Feingold decision on his chair. Let Obama give his speech to that.

ss396 on January 25, 2011 at 1:12 PM

Six Justices To Attend State Of The Union
*****************************************
by Lee Ross | January 25, 2011

http://politics.blogs.foxnews.com/2011/01/25/six-justices-attend-state-union

canopfor on January 25, 2011 at 1:12 PM

So it’s a pretty good possibility that liberal justices will show up, but no conservative justices will? Add to that, the optics of Republicans mingled indistinguishable with Democrats. Is that creeping anybody else out? I can’t quite put my finger on why, but doesn’t that sound like a pretty chilling moment in American history?

bitsy on January 25, 2011 at 1:16 PM

Has anyone ever actually walked out on a SOTU? It just seems like it would be an amazingly large breach of protocol.

The Lone Platypus on January 25, 2011 at 1:32 PM

Castrati GOP and neutered SCOTUS……

Meh…….whatev!

PappyD61 on January 25, 2011 at 1:36 PM

Has anyone ever actually walked out on a SOTU? It just seems like it would be an amazingly large breach of protocol.

The Lone Platypus on January 25, 2011 at 1:32 PMYes.It would go nicely with the amazingly large breachs of protocol we have already been subjected to.

katy the mean old lady on January 25, 2011 at 1:41 PM

AverageJoe on January 25, 2011 at 12:57 PM

Exactly right. Only Rush has come close to even understannding that and he still hasn’t hit the nail on the head. The minute I heard about it I got it. It’s for visual purposes. Instead of 1/3 of the chamber (mostly very strange and unattractive cretins) jumping up and cheering wildly evertime barrack the destroyer hits a propaganda point the visual will be watered down and you can bet the networks are directing the house cameras to film from the most optimum angles.

peacenprosperity on January 25, 2011 at 1:47 PM

katy the mean old lady on January 25, 2011 at 1:41 PM

I agree.

The only thing worse than Joe Wilson’s “You lie!” was the lie that prompted him.

The only breach of protocol worse than the Supremes walking out of a SOTU would be the act of subjecting them to a public verbal flogging from an incompetent pseudo-law professor.

rwenger43 on January 25, 2011 at 1:50 PM

Martin.Hale @ 10am

ON TO GLORY, BLACKBURN !!

teacherman on January 25, 2011 at 2:41 PM

Del Dolemonte on January 25, 2011 at 10:24 AM

Thanks for the info. I really don’t recall that.
Nice to be informed.

Badger40 on January 25, 2011 at 11:44 AM

What’s really sad is that it was so hard for me to find a cite of this doing a Google search. It’s almost as if someone wanted to keep this info quiet. Wonder why?

Del Dolemonte on January 25, 2011 at 3:25 PM

Without the applause from congress (or lack thereof) the the president may has well simply speak to a camera from behind the Oval Office desk. The congressional reactions serve as a reminder to viewers which party approves or disapproves of the president’s talking points.

JetBoy on January 25, 2011 at 10:07 AM

I know I’m late reading this thread, but you triggered an idea…

Assuming a conservative gets elected President in 2012, they should do exactly what you described… deliver bullet-point talking points from the Oval office and tell people to contact their Reps. on the points they agree with! This would kill the ritualistic pomp and bury the partisanship.

For example, I have a brother-in-law that is a staunch Democrat. If I talk parties, he’s immediately against everything I say. But if I talk CONCEPTS, he is for decreased Government spending. Party affiliation is a trained defense reaction… which is easily herded when you have a visible cue from Congress as to whether a party should like or dislike a talking point.

Take that away, and act like Reagan… take it to the people! In fact, have a web app that allows secure voting and let the people speak to Congress about their preferred talking points!

If you get parties out of the way, I think you’ll find Americans know what is right and what is wrong for the country.

dominigan on January 25, 2011 at 3:47 PM

Obviously, we don’t see a lot of unanimous decisions on the law from the court

Not at all true; I would venture a guess that there are more unanimous opinions than 5-4 splits. In fact all 4 opinions yesterday were unanimous. Someone did some research on this late last year (the Times maybe?) and found that there was much more hegemony than believed, and that while the highest profile cases ofter had party line splits, most cases (on the order of 60% or more)were 9-0, 8-1 or 7-2.

kmaster31 on January 25, 2011 at 3:55 PM

After the “dems” with all the class in the world stood up right behind the Supremes and clapped and clapped, there is no way I would ever sit through the idiots (do over) in his speech again.

Bambi on January 25, 2011 at 4:18 PM

What Roberts should do is to have the House page place a printed copy of the McCain-Feingold decision on his chair. Let Obama give his speech to that.

ss396 on January 25, 2011 at 1:12 PM

I like it. Classy, understated, accurate, and sharp-witted.

hawksruleva on January 25, 2011 at 4:30 PM

I can’t watch Obama speak. Too much drama; the nose in the air, continually pausing for affect, the lies. Maybe I’ll read it tomorrow.

Rose on January 25, 2011 at 12:50 PM

And don’t forget … the head bobbing … from side to side … as he looks … from one teleprompter … to the other.

I once grabbed a Shakespeare soliloquy (prob from Henry V) and read it to the rest of the family in the style of an Obama speech. I thought the guys were going to lose it.

CJ on January 25, 2011 at 4:42 PM

I can’t watch Obama speak. Too much drama; the nose in the air, continually pausing for affect, the lies. Maybe I’ll read it tomorrow.

Rose on January 25, 2011 at 12:50 PM

Wait a minute, it might be worth it all for the occasional shots of Princess Nana wistfully gazing upon the Speaker’s Chair from her spot in the audience.

slickwillie2001 on January 25, 2011 at 5:11 PM

Use the old HOV scofflaw trick: dress up an “astonished” inflatable doll, stick it in your seat, and leave.

Of course, these dolls would be mistaken for being members of the press and escorted out of the chamber.

ya2daup on January 25, 2011 at 5:17 PM

3 of them will be home watching NCIS and having a better time!

aigle on January 25, 2011 at 6:09 PM

I once grabbed a Shakespeare soliloquy (prob from Henry V) and read it to the rest of the family in the style of an Obama speech. I thought the guys were going to lose it.

CJ on January 25, 2011 at 4:42 PM

Oh, please tell me it was the St. Crispin’s Day speech!

“…And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.”

Good Lord, I’m laughing already…

karl9000 on January 25, 2011 at 6:39 PM

Well, the first strike against John Roberts.

motionview on January 25, 2011 at 7:19 PM

Of course, these dolls would be mistaken for being members of the press and escorted out of the chamber.

ya2daup on January 25, 2011 at 5:17 PM

Ya got me laughing aloud in the library!!

rwenger43 on January 26, 2011 at 1:25 PM

People of the United States, I want you to know that we still have three out of three branches of our Government still working for us, and that ain’t bad.

unclesmrgol on January 26, 2011 at 6:48 PM

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) and Rep. Jerrod Nadler (D-Never Missed a Meal) were in attendance.

“He [Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia] talked about a couple of old cases where the Congress made mistakes, he felt, in its judgment,” Schakowsky added. “But they were not especially of a political nature…. This was pretty dry, actually.”

Boy did that screwup a perfectly good meme.

J_Crater on February 7, 2011 at 2:07 PM

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