Awkward for justices
Alito may not show at State of Union speech
MONDAY, OCTOBER 18, 2010
Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito may not attend the president's next State of the Union speech, the Associated Press reported.
Justice Alito said that the atmosphere at the event has become politicized and uncomfortable for the justices, who are supposed to remain neutral and impassive in their demeanor. Actually, Mr. Alito put it more colorfully: they are expected to sit "like the proverbial potted plant."
The good judge did not fully satisfy that requirement during the last State of the Union address when President Barack Obama delivered a rare criticism of the court's decision in a campaign finance case.
Lip readers noticed Justice Alito reacting to the president's criticism with the words "Not true."
During a speech and question-and-answer session at the Manhattan Institute in New York last week, he said his colleagues "who are more disciplined refrain from manifesting any emotion or opinion whatsoever."
When the president delivers general praise of the country, the justices look "unpatriotic" if they do not rise. But if, in the same sentence, the commander in chief speaks of a policy matter, the court members are not supposed to react.
Some justices have not appeared for the speech in recent years. Others, like Stephen Breyer, attend so that Americans can see the three branches of government represented at the event.