3 Conservative Justices Skip Speech; Sotomayor Unable to Attend

Wednesday, 29 Jan 2014 12:33 AM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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Conservative Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia, Samuel Alito, and Clarence Thomas skipped President Barack Obama's State of the Union address, as did liberal justice Sonia Sotomayor.

Sotomayor is on the road, reports Talking Points Memo. On Monday, she was at the University of California, where she was judging moot-court finals.

This is not the first time Scalia, Alito, and Thomas have skipped a State of the Union address.

Tuesday marked the 17th time Scalia has not attended the address. Last year, he called the event a "childish spectacle," and said he doesn't want to attend because he doesn't "want to be there to lend dignity to it."

Scalia, who was nominated for the court in 1986 by then-President Ronald Reagan, is the senior associate justice, having served longest on the court.

Alito has not attended a State of the Union address since 2010, when he was roundly criticized after he was seen mouthing the words "not true" when Obama criticized the court's decision to strike down campaign finance restrictions.

The justice's mother died at the age of 98 a week before last year's address, but Alito likely would have missed the speech in any event. In October 2010, Alito said that State of the Union speeches have "become very political events, and it's very awkward for the justices," who are not expected to show any response to any politically charged rhetoric.

Thomas told CBS News in 2012 that he does not attend State of the Union addresses because they have "become so partisan, and it's very uncomfortable for a judge to sit there. There's a lot that you don't hear on TV — the catcalls, the whooping and hollering and under-the-breath comments."

There is no constitutional requirement for justices to attend the speech.

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