To those who regularly tune in to watch the president’s State of the Union address in late January, the small group of Supreme Court justices, clothed in their black robes, are a familiar sight.
And while at least a few members of the court do attend annually, they are under no obligation to do so — and a few have expressed their objections to the event over the years.
Justice Samuel Alito actually did so in the chamber during then-President Barack Obama’s 2010 State of the Union, clearly disagreeing with Obama’s assessment of the Citizens United decision:
But others have also voiced their concerns over attending the event over the years.
Chief Justice John Roberts:
“It does cause me to think whether or not it makes sense for us to be there. To the extent the State of the Union has degenerated into a political pep rally, I’m not sure why we’re there.”
Justice Stephen Breyer:
“People attend if they wish to attend. I do wish to attend, so I go.”
“We have to sit there like the proverbial potted plant most of the time.”
Justice Clarence Thomas:
“There’s a lot that you don’t hear on TV. The catcalls, the whooping and hollering and under-the-breath comments.”
The late Justice Antonin Scalia minced no words when it came to how he felt about the event. CNN reported in 2013:
Another more vocal no-go is Justice Antonin Scalia, who has compared the televised State of the Union to “cheerleading sessions.”
“You just sit there, looking stupid,” he said, calling the event and the spasms of partisan applause a spectacle.
“I resent being called upon to give it dignity.”
He last attended in 1997.
Conservative justices Thomas and Alito joined Scalia in skipping President Obama’s final State of the Union in 2016.
When President Donald Trump speaks on Tuesday, however, one fairly regular attendee will be absent: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Ginsburg to Skip Trump’s SOTU Address pic.twitter.com/xM2JcRgxA4
— Fox News (@FoxNews) January 28, 2018
Ginsburg cited a previous speaking engagement as the reason she would not be in attendance.
Despite the fact that the justices are by no means required to attend, many Americans view a failure to attend the State of the Union as a direct snub of the sitting president. But Ginsburg, who has admitted to falling asleep and to not being “100 percent sober” at previous State of the Union addresses, is likely to weather the criticism just fine.
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