Roberts Criticizes Obama For State of the Union — Without a Word of Criticism for Alito

U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts spoke publicly to criticize President Barack Obama for his State of the Union — calling his reference to the Citizens United “very troubling.” He implicitly denounced the President for allowing the speech to “degenerate[] to a political pep rally.” Most notably, however, he did not have a single word of objection for fellow conservative justice Sam Alito for his expression of disagreement during the address. Robert’s Rules of Order now appear to be rather selective in their application.

At the talk at the University of Alabama, Roberts indicated that it was unfair to criticize the Court when justices “according the requirements of protocol – [have] to sit there expressionless.” But, of course, they all did not sit there expressionless, but Roberts does not acknowledge the serious breach of protocol from his colleague who mouthed “not true” and shook his head in disagreement.

Roberts lost considerable credibility with the omission. It is hard to claim to defend tradition when you give a pass to a colleague while lashing out at Democrats and the President.

For the full story, click here.

40 thoughts on “Roberts Criticizes Obama For State of the Union — Without a Word of Criticism for Alito

  1. Roberts is a fascist tool and, as of Citizens United, a traitor to We the People and his oath of office.

    Any questions?

  2. Seems like its time for the President to nominate a NEW CHIEF Judge. It is not a constitutional office. Period.

    “The Chief Justice, like all other federal judges, is nominated by the President and confirmed to sit on the Court by the Senate. The U.S. Constitution states that all justices of the Court “shall hold their offices during good behavior,” meaning that the appointments only end when a justice dies in office, resigns, or is impeached by the House of Representatives and convicted by the Senate.”

  3. Buddha,

    I have a question: How many Championship Norwegian Forest cats does it take to change a light bulb?

  4. “…the serious breach of protocol from his colleague…”

    Geewillikers ‘Fesser T that thar iz durn nigh hiperbowlee…

  5. Chief Justice Roberts ought to consider the words of President Abraham Lincoln in his First Inaugural Address, delivered while Chief Justice Roger Brooke Taney, after administering the Oath of Office sat in silence.

    “I do not forget the position, assumed by some, that Constitutional questions are to be decided by the Supreme Court; nor do I deny that such decisions must be binding, in any case, upon the parties to a suit, as to the object of that suit, while they are also entitled to very high respect and consideration in all parallel cases by all other departments of the government. And while it is obviously possible that such decision may be erroneous in any given case, still the evil effect following it, being limited to that particular case, with the chance that it may be overruled and never become a precedent for other cases, can better be borne than could the evils of a different practice. At the same time, the candid citizen must confess that if the policy of the government, upon vital questions affecting the whole people, is to be irrevocably fixed by decisions of the Supreme Court, the instant they are made, in ordinary litigation between parties in personal actions, the people will have ceased to be their own rulers, having to that extent practically resigned their government into the hands of that eminent tribunal. Nor is there in this view any assault upon the court or the judges. It is a duty from which they may not shrink to decide cases properly brought before them, and it is no fault of theirs if others seek to turn their decisions to political purposes.”

    Lincoln was criticizing Taney’s decision in Dred Scott. In that case, Taney had allowed his own personal prejudiced opinion that African Americans were beings of an inferior order to influence his decision as a judge. Without any basis in law, history or the Constitution, he ruled that both slaves and freed slaves could not be citizens, were the property of the slaveowners, and the slaveholders’ property rights were protected by the Due Process Clause of the Constitution.

    Roberts should consider carefully the fact that Lincoln is regarded as our greatest President, while Taney was the worst Chief Justice by far in our entire history.

  6. Professor Turley:

    It’s my understanding that the Chief Justice is supposed to keep his mouth shut on all things political at the risk of tainting the court as a tool of one side or the other.. Am I that wrong??

  7. Dredd,

    I’ll give you Roberts, Scalia, Alito, and Thomas are conservative. Stevens, Ginsburg, Breyer, and Sotomayor are liberal. Kennedy really is a swing vote.

  8. I wonder if Roberts was awake during the Bush Administration when George W. repeatedly took exception to “liberal activist” judges? Buddha put it correctly. Roberts and Alito are liars and they were bought and sold long before they made it to the Supreme Court.

  9. The Court made a totally political, uujustifiable decision.
    If they want to play politics then they are going to have to live with political criticism.

    Robert’s whining does nothing to help maintain respect for the Court or its dehumanizing decisions.

  10. To borrow a riff from the president: If not Obama, who? If not at the state of the union address, when?

    Perhaps the Chief Justice needs to reread the Constitution:
    Article II, Section 3, the president

    He shall from time to time give to the Congress Information on the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient; he may, on extraordinary Occasions, convene both Houses, or either of them, and in Case of Disagreement between them, with Respect to the Time of Adjournment, he may adjourn them to such Time as he shall think proper; he shall receive Ambassadors and other public Ministers; he shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed, and shall Commission all the Officers of the United States.

  11. Roberts’ excessive pride and Alito’s blatant insolence have come together in a rather perfect hubristic storm. Dressing ’em up in robes and putting ’em on the bench hasn’t changed their basic identities … political hacks.

  12. i’m no fan of roberts, but he conceded as much in his speech:

    Roberts said anyone is free to criticize the court and that some have an obligation to do so because of their positions.

    “So I have no problems with that,” he said. “On the other hand, 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.”

  13. Well now we have two judges talking out of both sides of their mouths…

    Prof I have a new email address if you need to reestablish my credentials :)

  14. Butters,
    Obama did exactly what his predecessors have done. Roberts, like the rest of the bought and sold Republicans want it their way and only their way.

  15. It seems Lincoln’s words have application even today:

    “We should be too big to take offense and too noble to give it.”

    And perhaps even more aptly, the gentleman from Illinois understood a thing or two about restraint:

    “The time comes upon every public man when it is best for him to keep his lips closed.”

  16. While I certainly don’t think Roberts should be commenting, I find it very difficult to compare Alito’s actions with Obama’s. Obama’s move was a calculated effort to politicize the judicial branch. Alito’s was a mild, involuntary reaction.

    The President took the unprecedented step of criticizing the Supreme Court to their faces on a specific case at a political event. Moreover, he misrepresented the holding in a way that was designed to make the Justices squirm.

    Alito didn’t interrupt Obama or cause a scene. (Without cameras, I doubt anyone would have even noticed.) He had a mild reaction after being put in a very awkward position. He’s nerdy and socially awkward—-he’s not the sort of guy to cause a scene. I’m sure he wishes he’d just sat there and taken it. But whatever the case, his actions weren’t calculated.

  17. George,


    The fractional is where they have donned their Acme Thumb-o-matic.

    Tom H,

    You need to learn what the word “unprecedented” means and then re-read Vince’s post about Lincoln. Roberts, Scalia and Ailito are fascists. Plain and simple. If they weren’t CU wouldn’t have even gotten cert. Why? Because even children know a corporation isn’t a real person. What’s really funny is Obama’s criticism in light of his cozy deals with the drug and insurance industry. Hypocrisy is vile, true, but it can be entertaining too. Be it at SCOTUS or the White House.

  18. BIL — Haha, those are some pretty strong words.

    I’ll just point out that the First Amendment isn’t textually limited to persons, and so I think your argument about persons vs. corporations is beside the point. (The text of the amendment simply reads “Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech.”)

    And this makes perfect sense. Any construction of the First Amendment that excluded such corporations as the New York Times or the Democratic Party or the ACLU would be pretty freakin’ weird.

  19. “Justice Antonin Scalia once said he no longer goes to the annual speech because the justices “sit there like bumps on a log” in an otherwise highly partisan atmosphere.”

  20. Tom,

    Again, a corporation is not a person. It is a legal fiction. As such may be curtailed by legislation that would not be appropriate to apply to a natural human being. We the People could abolish the corporate form if we so desired and not violate the Constitution in any way. People have rights. Fictions don’t. At least they didn’t before Roberts & Co. opened the door and elevated corporations to actual personhood which is what Roberts has effectively done with Citizens United.

    Free speech is abridges all the time or haven’t you heard to old saw about yelling fire? Even a cursory inspection of the jurisprudence surrounding the 1st Amendment would have taught you free speech has limits. Don’t think I’m right? Google “limits on freedom of speech”. You’ll quickly find out how wrong you are about the nature of the 1st Amendment.

    Roberts is a fascist and if you can’t see that then you don’t understand the nature of fascism either.

    You need to prep better before making any more blatantly wrong blanket assertions like you just did. Or not. Faux pas often present both educational opportunities and/or interesting conversation.

  21. Haha . . . you seem pretty worked up, BIL.

    Of course a corporation isn’t a person. Nobody claims otherwise. But the First Amendment isn’t limited to persons. (Really! Go read it!) It protects SPEECH, not speakers.

    The First Amendment is certainly subject to reasonable limitations, but discrimation against classes of speakers ain’t one of ’em. Especially when it comes to core political speech.

    You seem like a pretty angry person, BIL. Cheer up! It’s a beautiful day outside! (Oh, and I apologize for failing to identify Cheif Justice Roberts as a shadow “fascist.”)


    “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).”

    And on Roberts’ authoritarian personality:

  23. It was the right and proper forum for the President to issue his policy disagreements to one co-equal branch, while asking the other to do something about it. Federal judges hold absolute rule in their courtrooms for their entire lives.

    An hour to sit still and face your own music never killed anyone, and is ZERO threat to democracy.

  24. Tom,

    You seem like an inane person. If you’re just interested in labeling.

    And anger? Why not ask some of the other regulars how hard I am to anger.

    You don’t have the right tools to make me angry.

    What you perceive as anger is merely amusement at your inability to understand.

    But if you want to just start hurling fire? lol You bring it on, sport. But I rather we stick to the question of your ignorance.

    What you fail to understand is a corporation is not a “class”.

    It’s construct.

    As artificial as a sidewalk.

    Since you express little more than mocking ignorance of what a legal fiction is, here, let me help with that: A legal fiction is a rule assuming as true something that is clearly false – like a corporation is a “person”. A fiction is often used to get around the provisions of constitutions and legal codes that legislators are hesitant to change or to encumber with specific limitations. To be clear, a legal fiction is a lie. It is also a tool. A tool that has outlived its usefulness as it is destroying democracy.

    You seem to think something made up is equivalent of a protected class. While you’re at it, why not give a contract the right to vote. Or dogs. In your ignorance, you don’t realize that the Federal government only recognizes people as protected classes – not legal constructs. Federal law protects people (nothing else) from discrimination or harassment based on sex, race, age, disability, color, creed, national origin, or religion. They may also protect employees from harassment and/or discrimination based on sexual orientation or marital status.

    No where are corporations mentioned as a protected class. Why? Because they are not real people and only have the rights the law allows. Citizens United was and is an unconstitutional expansion of rights reserved to individuals to cover a corporation, a fiction.

    So let’s get to the root of your “opinion”. Either you are a fascist or the tool of fascists.

    And that’s not an observation made in anger. Merely an observation.

    Have a nice day licking boots.

  25. Hahaha . . . I like your style, BIL. I see that you’ve now added me to your list of boot-licking fascists? *pats BIL on the back*

    You seem to be rebutting an argument that I never made. To be clear, I didn’t claim that corporations were a special “protected class” (which is a legal term for special classes like race, gender, alienage, etc). But corporations certainly represent a “class” (i.e. subset) of speakers. And the government can’t carve out subsets of speakers for censorship.

    I will also observe that no one on the current Court —- not even Justice Stevens —- shares your apparent view that corporations have *no* First Amendment rights. No Justice would permit blanket censorship of the ACLU or the Democratic party or the LA Times. The Stevens dissent just claims that corporations should have *lesser* First Amendment rights (a peculiar distinction with no basis in the amendment’s text).

    (Oh, and speaking of the ACLU, they filed an amicus brief in support of Citizens United. Better add them to your fascist list, too.)

  26. Fascist is as fascist does, Forest. “The First Amendment is certainly subject to reasonable limitations, but discrimation against classes of speakers (/b>ain’t one of ‘em. Especially when it comes to core political speech.”

    Sure sounds like you’re the one who brought up protected classes to me.

    You might be right if corporations were individuals, but they are not. They are a construct – one you clearly have vested interests in protecting. Which makes you a corporatist. And we all know what a corporatist really is despite using Mussolini’s preferred term over in place of fascism. See, that’s what happens when you use terms you don’t understand, propagandist. Like “person” and “classes of speakers”. Corporations are not real people no matter your (or the ACLU’s) wishful thinking. As to the ACLU, it’s not shocking they are trying to protect their own influence on the Hill. Your assumption is that I want them excluded from a ban on all corporate based lobbying. You’d be wrong. The ACLU has utility as a lobbying group, but other groups “in that class” are responsible for driving this country into the ditch. I’m perfectly willing to take away their bullhorn as long as we take away Big Oil and Big Pharma’s bullhorns too. Only individual citizens should have the right to petition. It should be a form available for free at the post office or online. No money or gifts or favors should ever trade hands. The Founding Fathers knew even then that corporations have one amoral motive: profits. Otherwise the Founding Fathers would have granted it specifically. Like they did for actual people. But they didn’t for corporations. A purposeful omission of rights to a legal fiction they were all to already familiar with. Hmmm . . . I wonder why?

    “If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their money, first by inflation and then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around them (around the banks), will deprive the people of their property until their children will wake up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered.” – Thomas Jefferson

    Who knew TJ was writing a prognostication so accurate it could come from today’s headlines? Aside from those of us paying attention that is?

    Keep being as wrong and ignorant as you want, Tommy Boy.

    I’ll keep pointing it out.

  27. Haha, you definitely keep me entertained, BIL. :)

    Again, we both agree that corporations are not “persons.” But as I’ve pointed out several times now, the First Amendment isn’t textually limited to “persons” — it protects SPEECH, not speakers. It says “Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech”; it does not say “unless that speech comes from a corporation.”

    Where does your mysterious non-textual “corporation exception” to the First Amendment come from? Does it also apply to other parts of the Constitution? For example, can the government seize corporate property without providing compensation? Can it force a corporation to display religious symbols on its property? Can it fine a corporation with giving it due process? If you really believe the Constitution protects only persons, then all this stuff should be fine in your world.

    I suspect that, once again, you will ignore or mischaracterize my arguments and merely repeat your “a corporation is not a person” mantra. But you might want to think about them on your own. (At the very least, I would recommend that you read Austin and its dissents, WRTL and its dissents, as well as the Stevens vs Scalia opinions in CU. I think you’ll quickly realize why no one on the Court shares your view that the First Amendment protects only persons.) Cheers!

  28. Again, corporations are not people. The rights given under the bill of rights are conferred to PEOPLE, NOT CONSTRUCTS.

    The Preamble reads “We the People”, not “We the Imaginary”.

    Get a clue.

  29. Does you driver’s license have a right to petition?

    Does your birth certificate have the right trial by jury?

    Does your paper money free from excessive bail and cruel and unusual punishment?

    Is your bear allowed to be armed?

    You really have latched on the idea that corporations have rights when as legal fictions and creatures of the state, they don’t.

    I suppose you think corporations should be allowed to vote by your “reasoning”? Rhetorical.

    It’s clear you too are a fascist.

    And the only good fascist?

    Go read Woody Guthrie’s guitar.

  30. It is very apparent that the President of the United States is not privileged to exercise his right of freedom of speech.
    Everytime he says something, white racists questions his freedom of speech. Racism is alive and well throughout this country, especially those in the media, in Congress and those who try to pretend that they “see no color”. Hyprocrites, hyprocrites, hyprocrites. You need to examine yourselves to see if you are not being hyprocritical when you constantly criticize President Obama with your insane rhetoric. You racists would rather that the country fall apart, then to acknowledge that God has allowed a Black man to delivered this country out of bondage…greedy white men who put this country in peril.

    Racism’s definition is respect of persons. God, who is Love, and who has made us all in His Image, has no respect of persons…but the fool has said in his heart, there is no God…It is must be very stressful to hate people who don’t look or act like you. Your own wickedness will literally destroy you body, soul and spirit. Is your name written in the Book of Life or will it be blotted out and you will go to hell. Read the Book of Revelation before it is too latae. Agape

  31. CCD,

    LTNS. Yes, I did read the Fisher article (as I do with most of Vince’s links). How can I help you? As ever, one lives to be of service.

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