Justice Alito Shown Shaking His Head and Mouthing “Not True” in Response to State of the Union Address

In a breach of protocol, Associate Justice Sam Alito was filmed during the State of the Union address last night shaking his head and mouthing “not true” in response to the President’s criticism of the Citizens United ruling on corporate campaign finance limits. Ironically, Rep. Joe Wilson promised to restrain himself during this speech and not scream “you lie” again during the President’s speech. For a justice, this breach (shown below) is no less remarkable. It is, in a word, injudicious.

Justices are expected not to express support or opposition to a president during the State of the Union — symbolizing the neutrality of the Court. This demonstration of Alito’s views undermines that principle and makes the Court look partisan and rather petty. Whether or not Obama overstated the holding is completely immaterial — just as immaterial as what Obama was referencing when Wilson screamed “You Lie!’

Justice are expected to speak through their opinions alone. Indeed, the relatively recent trend of justices speaking at conferences and associational meetings have troubled many of us. I have long favored the prior view that justices rarely speak in public — largely confined to graduations, funerals and the like. While Alito clearly experienced an uncontrolled moment, justices are expected to control themselves and act judiciously — particularly at major events like a State of the Union.

Alito should apologize to the President and to Congress (he and his colleagues are guests of the United States Congress) for the incident. Notably, if a president (or any citizen) goes to a court of law and mouths objections, they risk a contempt warning or sanction from the judge. No one requires a justice to come to the State of the Union. The price of this particular trick is to remain stoic and neutral. As with Wilson, there is limited audience participation. This is not Oprah, it is the State of the Union. When it comes to the justices, they should ideally not even applaud let alone express their views. They are present to show the unity of the tripartite system, but also to reaffirm the strict neutrality and apolitical role of the Court.

For commentary on the incident, click here (Glenn Greenwald) and here (Huff) and here (Politico) and here.

178 thoughts on “Justice Alito Shown Shaking His Head and Mouthing “Not True” in Response to State of the Union Address”

  1. Побольше бы таких блогов с подходящей тематикой, все качественно для людей сделали.

  2. With all due deference to the separation of powers, how about Obama stop using signing statements to dictate law?

    Just because Bush did it doesn’t make it any less illegal when Obama does it. According to his job description, the President’s job is to sign or veto law as submitted by the legislature. Not make up what he thinks it should be.

    That verb, “dictate”?

    It has a noun counterpart.

    Best not be throwing too many stones at the Separation Doctrine, White House.

    Being that your lot is still screwing with it.

    That being said, Citizens United is the most damning and most damaging SCOTUS case since Dred Scott. Ailto and Thomas both need to put a sock in it. Their corporatism is self-evident.

  3. WASHINGTON – Still wonder exactly why Justice Samuel Alito shook his head and mouthed the words “not true” during President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address? He objected to the president’s saying the ruling reversed a century of law.

    The president touched off a controversy when he broke with tradition — and decorum, his critics said — by criticizing the court’s recent campaign finance decision in his speech with six justices in attendance and bound by their own tradition of not reacting to what is said. (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.)

    “With all due deference to the separation of powers,” Obama said, “the Supreme Court reversed a century of law to open the floodgates for special interests — including foreign corporations — to spend without limit in our elections.”


  4. Mike:

    Oh, and, I oppose the phony war in Iraq.

    I oppose Democrats war-mongering in Pakistan, Yemen, and soon-to-be Iran.

    Obama is a liar, he promised that the first thing he would do is bring the troops home.

    He lies, they love him. Republicans lie and the leftists destroy them in the media.

    The public is figuring this out.

  5. Mike:

    I’m not a republican. And religious or christian hypocrites pre-date America.

    Haggert isn’t my minister and any minister caught in adultery is supposed to leave the ministry.

    I’m sure you knew that.

  6. Tootie,
    Let’s talk about rightists for a change and how some opportunists have perverted Christianity to ignore some of Jesus most important teaching.

    1. The Iraq War attacked a country that had nothing to do with 9/11. Murdered at least two hundred thousand innocent Iraqi’s and led to the death of 3,000 Us soldiers and the maiming of far more. The people you support approved that.

    2. The Iraq War led to the torture of prisoners, ordered by your Vice President. Wasn’t Jesus tortured also?

    3. The people of New Orleans, deserving Federal Aid, found it so delayed that many died and many are still homeless. Isn’t charity a part of Christian Doctrine.

    4. The hypocritical anti-abortionists like your self are so concerned about the fetus, but vote against pre-natal care and care for the newborn as it grows. Out of the womb and the people you support could care less about the babies born. That is blatant hypocrisy.

    Time after time the people you support so ardently have shown themselves to be un-Christian,while professing religiousness.
    Adultery is rampant among your politicians and your presumptive Presidential candidates, as is homosexuality heavily closeted, yet you still support them. Many of your most prominent Ministers like Ted Haggard and Jimmy Swaggert were and are immoral in their personal lives and yet that hypocrisy is forgiven. The truth is that the elite of the people you support care more for profity than they do for piety. They only use that to foll you and to enslave you.

  7. Supposedly Ben Franklin said “Force shites on the back of reason”. Well, I say change shites on the back of decorum and protocol.

    The little Missus told voters in Puerto Rico during Obama’s campaign that we must change our traditions. You can click on the link below and see her say it.

    Obama’s motto was “change”. It was change 24/7. Change you can believe in. Change, change, unspecified change.

    Just what do leftists think happens when “change” is their clarion call?


    No, never.

    It means whatever anyone wants, it means chaos.

    Do leftists just think they can limit change to only whatever they want to change? They better think again. They let Pandora out of the box and it is a bit disingenuous of them to now whine about it. It’s like a court case when on side opens to door to a line a questioning the other side takes advantage of.

    Leftists never specified, nor have they hitherto elaborated upon, just what change we are to expect. We are only to expect it while they promote it and push it through with unremitting force.

    That is just what Alito did and now the leftists pretend to be mortified that Alito “changed” things.

    Well, leftists made their bed and must lay in it.

    The president attacked the court to humiliate it in front of the world. There was no need to mention the ruling. He did this because he has no respect for our government. He is a dangerous subversive and that is quite indecorous.

    He punches everyone in the nose and then wonders why people say ouch.

    (see remarks at the 1:58 mark and the 2:48 mark)

  8. “If the Supreme Court is supposed to attend this political theater to represent the 3d branch and to remind us of its political neutrality, is it fair for the President to attack them, to their faces, in front of the nation, knowing that they can’t defend themselves or ever respond? I say no. The President – ANY president – should show more respect to the Supreme Court when he is addressing the nation”

    Paying Attention,
    I really don’t care that Alito did what he did, but then I think the President was right to highlight this action before the nation. FOX News and most of the other news channels paid scant attention to this decision which may have the most dire of consequences for our freedom.

    They actually ruled on far more than the plaintiff’s asked for and went out of their way to give corporations the same rights as individuals. As for them deserving respect as an “impartial” branch, that may have been true at times in the past but very rarely. SCOTUS for the most part has always dealt too closely with politics and much evil has flowed from it, with some good also.

    To put it bluntly, they go to the bathroom each morning, hopefully at their age, and produce a result similar to my own. Respect should be given, or not, to them based on their actions. May I remind you that protocol also states that the President should be treated with respect, but that hasn’t happened either.

    We live in contentious times and I’d much prefer passion from the people running this nation’s institutions, to the cold methodical rape of the American people that has been taking place since that senile actor played the role of President.

  9. Like Duh’s remark above, I can’t think of another occasion where the President of the United States has directly criticized the Supreme Court, to their faces, during a State of the Union address.

    I agree with Mr. Turley that Justice Alito breached protocol when he reacted to the direct shot at the Court for the Citizens United opinion. However, the President’s critical comment should never have been made during this particular address in the first place. If the Supreme Court is supposed to attend this political theater to represent the 3d branch and to remind us of its political neutrality, is it fair for the President to attack them, to their faces, in front of the nation, knowing that they can’t defend themselves or ever respond? I say no. The President – ANY president – should show more respect to the Supreme Court when he is addressing the nation, even when he doesn’t like their decisions. President Obama’s remarks degraded the Court as an institution, and degraded our neutral third branch of government.

    If Justice Alito was “injudicious” then the President was un-presidential.

  10. “McCain didn’t cheat” Yes, he did actually.”

    Gee Waynester, I guess you were wrong, but then you would have voted for any Republican, including Sarah Palin. Oh my, you did!
    Can’t you just be honest and say that you root for your team and swallow their crap whole. What people like you don’t understand is that the people who usually post here are people who uphold the Constitution and not any political side. To you though it’s like rooting for a football team.

    For instance I’m a Jets fan for many years, but I also root for the Giants. Many fans of both teams can’t understand that, but that is because they think team loyalty is a virtue. My only political loyalty is to the upholding of the Constitution. Lately, most Republicans tear that document apart, but it always wasn’t so. The trouble is that you would see those great Republicans like Lincoln, Bob Taft and Everett Dirkson as traitors. What you miss in your thinking is that evn Mr. Conservative Barry Goldwater (the real Arizona Maverick), would have found Bush and today’s Republicans as slimy. Lack of historical context and a foolish partisanship can become an evil thing and you are infected.

  11. “McCain didn’t cheat” Yes, he did actually.

    …When McCain returned from Vietnam, both he and Shepp underwent physical therapy simultaneously. Their marriage lasted seven more years. According to a 2007 profile of McCain in the Arizona Republic, “Their marriage began disintegrating,” and “McCain has admitted to having extramarital affairs.” But the two remained married. Robert Timberg also describes McCain’s extramarital affairs in “The Nightingale’s Song”:

    The Nightingale’s Song (pg. 239): The storybook marriage that had survived separation, pain, and prison began to fray. Off-duty, usually on routine cross-country flights to Yuma and El Centro, John [McCain] started carousing and running around with women. … Asked about them, he admitted to having a series of dalliances during this period.


  12. Waynester, Gangster, bdagangster, duhganster, et al

    Call it what you want, he got D-I-V-O-R-C-E-D. Where’s the family values gone. Oh my and to have your words say that you only voted for McCain because of, well heck there were and a lot of better and more qualified people to chose from than that.

    Why not Nader? Why not the green party. Why not the labor party. Why because you are a party hack. Palin even an embarrassment to Alaska. Just think how that policy of just don’t do it worked. Wow, would she have quit as soon as the press got bad? I am sure.

    But then again, Blackwater is being investigated now for bribing a foreign country. But then again, take the RWR, Bush, Bush and Cheney tactic and just say. I cannot recall. I believe RWR, he probably didn’t have a clue. But to sell out Ollie North. Come on, real heros in Office. Cheney sold out Libby. Yeah baby always a fall guy. Sad, sad, sad.

    Makes me want join your party, real soon. At least LBJ knew how to silence his detractors.

  13. MCain didn’t cheat, nor did he father a child out of wedlock and then lie about it. FYI, I voted for McCain but only to try and keep an inexperienced heavily Marxist-influenced community organizer from winning.

  14. Geeze Mike S.,

    You left out the best one and thats the guy from Nevada that had his daddy pay for his mistress. Now if you pay for it outside of Nevada, so long as it not in a county with more than 50K people, isn’t it still Prostitution and he was more than a mere John?

  15. “Figures. Talk about clowns–and a liar and cheater, too.(on his cancer stricken wife, no less) What a scumbag.”

    Gee Waynester what does a principled guy like you think about?

    1. John McCain, left his disabled first wife for a young heiress who’s father financed his political career.

    2. Rudy Giuliani, married then cheated on and divorced first cousin. Than married his mistress an up and coming TV personality.

    3. Newt Gingrich, as his first wife was in hospital with cancer told her he was divorcing her to marry then current mistress. cheated on 2nd wife during Clinton impeachment and then married his mistress again.

    4. Gov. Sanford, married heiress to finance his career and then went to Argentina.

    5. A host of current GOP senators, like Vitter, who were cheats.

    6. Larry Craig and a bunch of other GOP senators/congressmen who are gay and in the closet. Nothing wrong with being gay, but pretending otherwise is deceit.

  16. It’s interesting that Mr. Turley limits his opinions to the propriety of Alito’s actions and doesn’t go near the actual merit of Obama’s statement, which it turns out was false. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out who he voted for, does it?

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