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Justice Scalia: The State Of The Union Address Is A ‘Juvenile Spectacle’

November 20, 2010

WASHINGTON — In remarks to the conservative Federalist Society on Thursday night, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia decried the “juvenile spectacle” that is now the State of the Union address, saying he believes it is inappropriate for justices to attend the annual tradition.

Comparing the gatherings to “cheerleading sessions,” Scalia said, “I don’t know at what point that happened, but it did happen, and now you go and sit there like bumps on a log while applause lines cause one half the Congress to leap up while [another] causes the other half to leap up. … It is a juvenile spectacle. And I resent being called upon to the indignity.”

Sitting in the audience at the dinner at the Omni Shoreham Hotel was Scalia’s colleague, Justice Samuel Alito, who famously mouthed the words “not true” when the president criticized the court’s Citizens United decision in his 2010 State of the Union address.

After a flurry of controversy, Alito said he will no longer be attending these gatherings because justices are expected to sit there awkwardly “like the proverbial potted plant.” He also said that some of his colleagues “who are more disciplined refrain from manifesting any emotion or opinion whatsoever.” Neither Scalia nor Thomas have attended State of the Union addresses in recent years, and John Paul Stevens used to also refrain.

On Thursday, Scalia declined to explicitly advise his younger colleagues about going to the State of the Union address, acknowledging it’s a lot easier to stay away “when the president giving the State of the Union is not the man who appointed you.”

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