U.S. Supreme Court

Scalia calls State of the Union speech 'a childish spectacle'

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File photo of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin
Scalia courtesy of ABA Media Services.

It’s no secret that Justice Antonin Scalia sees no reason to attend the State of the Union address. He hasn’t attended for 16 years.

This year, Scalia explained his decision to stay away in a speech Tuesday evening sponsored by the Smithsonian Associates, the Associated Press reports. “It has turned into a childish spectacle. I don’t want to be there to lend dignity to it,” he said.

Scalia said the justices who do attend watch the chief justice for cues on when to applaud. It’s OK to clap when the president says the United States is a great country, Scalia said, but not when a statement is made that “anybody can disagree with.”

“I didn’t set this up tonight just to upstage the president,” he said of his speech. “The State of the Union is not something I mark on my calendar, like Easter or Yom Kippur.”

According to Legal Ethics Forum, the six justices who attended the State of the Union speech on Tuesday stood and clapped when President Obama expressed appreciation for the military. “Otherwise, they sat and did not clap,” the blog reports.

The other justices who stayed away were Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr., according to The BLT: The Blog of Legal Times.

Updated at 8:55 a.m. to include information from Legal Ethics Forum and The BLT.

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