Thursday, March 11, 2010

Obama, Roberts and the State of the Union Speech

U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts' ignited considerable controversy Tuesday with his comments on the January 27, 2010 State of the Union speech, in which President Barack Obama was critical of a recent campaign finance ruling by the Court:

U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts said Tuesday the scene at President Barack Obama's first State of the Union address was "very troubling" and that the annual speech to Congress has "degenerated into a political pep rally."

..."To the extent the State of the Union has degenerated into a political pep rally, I'm not sure why we're there," said Roberts, a Republican nominee who joined the court in 2005.

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."

In a statement sent to reporters, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said that the only troubling thing was the 5-4 ruling by the court, which said that corporations could spend unlimited amounts of money advocating on behalf of candidates in elections. Roberts leads the court.

"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," Gibbs said. "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."

Glen Greenwald also weighed in, somewhat emphatically:
Supreme Court Justices, in particular, have awesome, unrestrained power. They are guaranteed life tenure, have no authorities who can sanction them except under the most extreme circumstances, and, with the mere sweep of a pen, can radically alter the lives of huge numbers of people or even transform our political system (as five of them, including Roberts, just did, to some degree, in Citizens United). The very idea that it's terribly wrong, uncouth, and "very troubling" for the President to criticize one of their most significant judicial decisions in a speech while in their majestic presence -- not threaten them, or have them arrested, or incite violence against them, but disagree with their conclusions and call for Congressional remedies (as Art. II, Sec. 3 of the Constitution requires) -- approaches pathological levels of vanity and entitlement. The particular Obama/Roberts/Alito drama is an unimportant distraction, but what this reflects about the mindset of many judges, including (perhaps especially) ones on the Supreme Court and obviously the Chief Justice of that court, is definitely worth considering.

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

Visit our Toronto Law Firm website: www.wiselaw.net

EMPLOYMENT LAWCIVIL LITIGATIONWILLS AND ESTATESFAMILY LAW & DIVORCE

ORIGINALLY POSTED AT WISE LAW BLOGSUBSCRIBE TO WISE LAW BLOG

Post a Comment