According to CNN, only a minority of the Supreme Court will be attending President Donald Trump's very first State of the Union address on Tuesday night. Those attending will be seen in their black robes near the front of the chamber, trying very hard to restrain from any partisan gesture.
Justice Neil Gorsuch, Trump's only Supreme Court nominee, will be attending the debut on Tuesday night. Gorsuch's confirmation, which came early in Trump's presidency, is considered by conservatives to be Trump's biggest victory so far, along with tax reform and many pro-life pieces of legislation. The other justices scheduled to appear are Chief Justice John Roberts, Justice Stephen Breyer, and Justice Elena Kagan.
Throughout the years, it has become very common for justices to not appear at State of the Union addresses. The reasons why are as numerous as the number of justices themselves. CNN reports that some justices feel that scheduling conflicts often make it impossible for them to appear.
Meanwhile, other justices often feel that the addresses are "childish spectacles." Others feel that they do not like stupidly sitting there, trying not to make a partisan gesture, which they find forced an unnatural.
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has announced she won't be attending President Trump's State of the Union address on Tuesday. Rather than attending Trump's speech, she will instead be at Roger Williams University to deliver a talk that was first announced in August.
This isn't the first time that Ginsburg hasn't attended a State of the Union. In fact, she also missed the address last year. Other justices have missed presidential State of the Union addresses in the past. Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas didn't attend President Trump's address last year, according to The Hill.
The former Justice Antonin Scalia was a justice who didn't often attend the addresses. In fact, Scalia, who died in 2016, hadn't attended a State of the Union since 1997. He was of the opinion that he "looked stupid" sitting there trying not to make a partisan gesture.
"You just sit there, looking stupid," Scalia once remarked to CNN.
Last spring, CNN reports that Chief Justice John Roberts reiterated that sometimes he has wished he didn't go to the address. Roberts, says CNN, was probably referring to the 2010 speech by President Obama criticizing the Court's ruling on campaign finance reform.
Roberts claimed that although it is appropriate for people to criticize the court, it was uncomfortable for him to see such criticism occur during the State of the Union. This is especially since the justices, in order to preserve impartiality, always refrain from all applause or reaction to speeches.
"On occasion in the past, there have been particular references to the court, and that presents a particular challenge. You don't want to be in the position where you just have to sit there idly by while your work is being criticized" Roberts said.
USA Today reports that Thomas and Alito have been no-shows at the State of the Union address for many years. In Alito's case, he stopped going after he was caught by TV cameras shaking his head in response to Obama's 2010 address and mouthing the words, quite audibly, "not true."
Those justices who won't be appearing are in good company. William Rehnquist often didn't show up toward the end of his tenure as chief justice. Former Justice John Paul Stevens never once showed up.
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