Alito breaks protocol of State of the Union

The President is wrong about the impact of the Citizens United Supreme Court decision – it is hard to imagine that it will unleash special interest groups, as if their role in our political process could get any worse.

But what was Justice Alito thinking when he shook his head and accused the President of misconstruing the Court opinion?

“Not true,” he mouthed visibly in response to the President as the Democrats sitting around him erupted in applause.

A judge, particularly a life tenured federal judge, knows that he sacrifices a certain amount of his right to freedom of speech when he is elevated to the bench. The place for Alito to express his opinion is in his written opinion, not during a state of the union speech by the President.

Ordinarily the Justices sit silently at the State of the Union as a visible symbol of the Court’s autonomy from the rough and tumble of American politics. That autonomy is fragile and yet is also the source of the legitimacy and power of our Supreme Court. Alito forgot that this evening and thus tore a small hole in that veil of legitimacy.

Perhaps it is time to dust off the requirement that a Justice serves for life only if he engages in “good behavior.”

Above the Law

One thought on “Alito breaks protocol of State of the Union

  1. TeakWoodKikte

    Was Obama correct in what he said?
    Not excusing Alito’s poor form, I can understand his gut reaction. Sometimes the visceral reaction is not easliy concealed considering it is very rare that a POTUS will denigrate the SCOTUS in a SOTU speech, in the manner BO choose. I have watched the last 30 and I can’t recall a time.
    I have no love for Alito, but Obama made Lawerence Tribe proud with that scene. I think “brilliant”was the word he used.
    Did you notice the facial expressions on Breyer?
    Forget Ailito.

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