CNN photoThe Supreme Court being a usually quietly deliberative body, couldn’t exactly hold press conferences after President Obama made unprecedented (and unpresidential) remarks harshly rebuking the High Court in Obama’s last SOTU address. The most we got was a camera shot of Justice Samuel Alito silently shaking his head and mouthing the words ‘not true’. But now, after due diligence, Chief Justice Roberts is talking, and taking Obama to task.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. told law students Tuesday that he found it “very troubling” to be surrounded by loudly cheering critics at President Obama’s State of the Union address, saying it was reason enough for the justices not to attend the annual speech to Congress.

“To the extent the State of the Union has degenerated into a political pep rally, I’m not sure why we are there,” Roberts said at the University of Alabama School of Law.

Two good points right there. Decorum and protocol are not being followed by this president and this White House. But the justice still hold to theirs, leaving them sitting silently watching and listening to members of Congress stand and cheer and holler in tasteless partisan support of Obama’s undignified swipe at the court.

The White House reportedly responded to Chief Justice Roberts’ remarks. But they really didn’t.

The White House fired back Tuesday night with a statement that did not address the substance of Roberts’s comments but with another broadside at the court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission. Press secretary Robert Gibbs accused the court of opening “the floodgates for corporations and special interests to pour money into elections — drowning out the voices of average Americans.”


The quick response by the White House to Roberts’s comments was striking.

The nature of it…par for the course. It seemed we didn’t get the change promised when this president ran as a candidate for office, since Washington has been as bitter and divided as ever. But it’s worse than ‘politics as usual’ when the president dressed down the Supreme Court in such a stately and historical setting.

Roberts commented that the whole process of seating justices on the court these days is broken.

Roberts also took issue with the Senate’s confirmation process for judges and justices, saying it is contentious and unproductive.

“I think the process is broken down,” he said. “The only people who can change it are the senators. I hope they do.”

Not looking good with this particular class. They’re the ones – at least of the majority party – who constituted the pep rally razzing the justices. The only people who can change that are the voters.

Sheila Liaugminas

Sheila Liaugminas is an Emmy award-winning Chicago-based journalist in print and broadcast media. Her writing and broadcasting covers matters of faith, culture, politics and the media....