Justice Roberts: State of the Union a 'Political Pep Rally'

He finds the rah-rah atmosphere "troubling"

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Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts ruffled feathers Tuesday when he criticized Obama for scolding the Supreme Court during his State of the Union address in January. Speaking to law students at the University of Alabama, Roberts called the speech a "political pep rally":

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.

Does the justice have a point? Here's how bloggers are reflecting on the federal feud:

  • Obama's Speech Did Cross a Line, writes Andrew Malcom at The Los Angeles Times: "It is not at all unusual in American history for the executive branch of the federal government (the White House, under the control of either party) to disagree with the judicial branch (Supreme Court). What is considerably more unusual is for the chief executive of the executive branch (Barack Obama) to look down on the members of said Supreme Court in public at a joint session of Congress and to their faces denounce their independent actions. And then to receive a resounding ovation from fellow Democrats standing to applaud and cheer Obama as the surrounded justices sat mute, motionless and unable to respond."
  • Roberts Has a Nuanced Argument, writes James Joyner at Outside the Beltway: "Unlike the president and Congress, the Court is not an elected, political institution.  They’re supposed to be impartial arbiters separate from politics. That’s a transparent fiction, of course, but one that must be maintained. If the Supreme Court is finally revealed to be nothing more than a band of partisans, their authority will vanish... Roberts isn’t arguing that the Justices should get to shout 'You lie!' when they’re insulted.  He’s merely questioning whether they should attend political speeches where they’ll be scolded."

  • Please...Roberts Is a Hypocrite, writes Glenn Greenwald at Salon: "What makes Roberts' petty, self-absorbed grievance all the more striking is that this is what judges do all the time.  It's the essence of the judicial branch. Federal judges are basically absolute tyrants who rule over their courtroom and those in it with virtually no restraints.  They can and do scold, criticize, berate, mock, humiliate and threaten anyone who appears before their little fiefdoms -- parties, defendants, lawyers, witnesses, audience members -- and not merely "decorum," but the force of law (in the form of contempt citations or other penalties), compels the target to sit silently and not respond."
  • Will There Be Payback? wonders Bruce McQuain at QandO: "I wouldn’t want to be representing the administration in the SCOTUS anytime soon on a controversial issue that the court must hear. I would imagine that some on the court will come as close as tradition allows to making the point that two can play this game. Of course the difference will be it won’t be on national TV in prime time."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.