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U.S. Supreme Court

Roberts Questions Why Justices Attend State of the Union ‘Political Pep Rally’

Posted Mar 10, 2010 8:42 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. says he has no problem with criticism of the U.S. Supreme Court, but questions whether justices should have to be on the receiving end during the State of the Union speech.

"To the extent it has degenerated into a political pep rally, I'm not sure why we're there,” Roberts told law students Tuesday at the University of Alabama. The Associated Press, USA Today and the Tuscaloosa News covered the speech and the question-and-answer session in which Roberts commented on the State of the Union.

President Obama criticized the Supreme Court’s campaign finance decision during the speech, attended by six of the justices.

Roberts said he has no problem with criticism, but “there is the issue of the setting, the circumstances and the decorum.”

"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."

One justice at the event made news because he wasn’t expressionless. Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. shook his head and mouthed the words “not true” when Obama said the ruling struck down a century of law and would open the doors to special interests.

Justice Clarence Thomas has said he doesn’t attend the State of the Union speech because it’s become so partisan, with “catcalls” and “hooping and hollering.” Similarly, Justice Antonin Scalia has said he stays away because the justices “sit there like bumps on a log” in a partisan atmosphere, AP says.

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