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No More Justices at State of the Union Addresses?

We may have seen the last of Supreme Court Justices attending State of the Union speeches. As it is, they don’t allow cameras in the courtroom. And lately, they haven’t seemed disposed to wanting to share even audio arguments before the high court. How will we know they still exist?

Presumably, what reporters are left at the TV and Radio networks and maybe a newspaper guy or two will actually attend oral arguments and confirm sightings of the Supremes. It could get to the point that just seeing them will be more news than the cases they’re hearing.

Well, actually, Justice Roberts did turn up this week at the University of Alabama. All this came out in a question & answer session with students there. Chief Justice Roberts called it “very troubling,” that at the last State of the Union speech, President Obama singled the justices out for criticism for their recent ruling that allowed corporations and labor unions to spend as much as they want on political campaigns.

It was a rare moment, for sure. Apparently, only the third known time a President had ripped into the Supreme Court in a State of the Union speech. Justice Samuel Alito was caught on camera shaking his head at the President’s remarks and mouthing the words, “not true.”

And Justice Roberts apparently felt kind of threatened.

…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.

Justice Roberts and I have differing views on what is “very troubling.” War is “very troubling.” Unemployment is “very troubling.” My checking account balance is “very troubling.” Being surrounded by lawmakers disagreeing with you- I don’t know- “very troubling?”

And he added:

To the extent the State of the Union has degenerated into a political pep rally, I’m not sure why we’re there.

Oh my- imagine that- politics and partisanship at a State of the Union speech. How unusual. How new. How we’ve degenerated.

But-wait! What really seemed to bother the Chief Justice, if you go by the strict construction of his sentence, was that his colleagues from the court had to sit there “expressionless.” Dear High Court: Will you come back to future State of the Union Speeches if we let you bring in signs and blow-horns, bags of vegetables and rotten fruit?

But, alas, Justice Roberts is not alone. Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and John Paul Stevens all share his repulsion at having to come to State of the Union speeches.

Frankly, I don’t know how I’m going to survive if they suddenly stop attending. No more “Mr. Speaker! The Justices of the Supreme Court!” No more wondering what they’re wearing under those black, flowing robes. No more of the vacant facial expressions. No more wondering if they’d be watching American Idol if they didn’t have to be at the big speech.

But what suspense next January as we all wait, dizzy with anticipation, to see if they show. I’m nodding off now just thinking about it.

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