Chief Justice Roberts is worried about the “decor” of the State of The Union. He claims that it has sunk to nothing more than a political pep rally. The Chief Justice felt that President Barack Obama was out of line for scolding Justice Sam Alito and others for the 5-4 decision of the Citizens United case. It seems the Chief Justice feels that the SCOTUS should be exempt from criticism. The idea of the “checks & balance” system for the executive, judicial and legislative branches of government is to ensure that no one branch can say that they are beyond reproach or criticism. The Chief Justice, in my opinion is dead wrong on his critique of the POTUS scolding the SCOTUS for that horrendous decision.
Press Secretary Robert Gibbs:
What is troubling is that this decision opened the floodgates for corporations and special interests to pour money into elections, drowning out the voices of average Americans. The President has long been committed to reducing the undue influence of special interests and their lobbyists over government. That is why he spoke out to condemn the decision and is working with Congress on a legislative response.
It’s not actually a unique event of oppression or suffering to have to sit and listen to a speech where someone criticizes you and you can’t respond that very moment (but are able, as Roberts just proved, to respond freely afterward). Even in the State of the Union Address, it’s completely customary for the President to criticize the Congress or the opposition party right to their faces, while members of his party stand and cheer vocally, and — as the reaction to Joe Wilson’s outburst demonstrated — “decorum” dictates that the targets of the criticism sit silently and not respond until later, once the speech is done. That’s how speeches work. Only Supreme Court Justices would depict their being subjected to such a mundane process as an act of grave unfairness (and, of course, Roberts’ comrade, Sam Alito, could not even bring himself to abide by that decorum).
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. In fact, lawyers can be, and have been, punished just for publicly criticizing a judge.
Crooks & Liars:
Bush’s Supreme politicking during his State of the Union speeches was a regular fixture of his presidency. For three straight years (2004, 2005 and 2006), President Bush denounced “activist judges” and insisted “for the good of families, children and society, I support a constitutional amendment to protect the institution of marriage.” On the very day Samuel Alito joined the Robert Court, Bush used his 2006 SOTU for a victory lap:
“The Supreme Court now has two superb new members — new members on its bench: Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Sam Alito. I thank the Senate for confirming both of them. I will continue to nominate men and women who understand that judges must be servants of the law and not legislate from the bench.”
And throughout the presidency of Ronald Reagan, for whom John Roberts promoted the gutting of the Civil Rights Act, overturning Roe v. Wade and a dangerously ignorant policy in response to the AIDS crisis, bashing the Supreme Court was a routine occurrence. Continues…