Barack Obama, Politics, SCOTUS, Supreme Court

The State of the Union: Open Thread

Here come the judges.

President Barack Obama just finished delivering his State of the Union address for 2011. Alas, it wasn’t as exciting as last year, which featured a confrontation between the president and the Supreme Court. This time around, six justices attended — Chief Justice Roberts, joined by Justices Kennedy, Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan — but they were on their best behavior. There was no POTUS v. SCOTUS showdown.

Your Above the Law editors covered the speech via Twitter. See @ATLblog, @DavidLat, and @ElieNYC.

Here’s an open thread for discussion of the address. We’ll get the party started with a few legally-oriented highlights, after the jump.

Here are some quick notes on the law-related aspects of the State of the Union:

  • Six Supreme Court justices attended: JGR, AMK, RBG, SGB, SS, and EK.

  • Obama urged young people to become teachers: “Your nation needs you.” He didn’t urge young people to become lawyers: “Sallie Mae needs you.”
  • The first solid shout-out to lawyers came in a reference to tax lawyers, but it wasn’t flattering. Obama complained about how our overly complicated tax code lets people with great tax lawyers exploit loopholes.
  • Not surprisingly, Obama discussed the need for reform in the area of medical malpractice lawsuits. Who would be opposed to that (other than plaintiffs-side med mal lawyers)?
  • As noted by Dave Weigel (and others), Justice Ginsburg “nodded off and was awoken by Anthony Kennedy.”
  • As expected, the justices remained seated and did not clap during the president’s speech. They didn’t stir when the president expressed hope for a speedy recovery by Representative Gabrielle Giffords or made banal statements about the greatness of the United States. (A bright-line rule against all applause is, of course, the safest approach.) (CORRECTION: Whoops, an exception. As noted in the comments and on Twitter, the justices did applaud when the president thanked the men and women of the armed forces.)
  • The justices did rise and applaud when the president’s speech was over. Next time around, the president should slip in something highly partisan and aimed at the Court, then quickly say, “Thank you and good night!” Will the justices stand up and clap then, or remain in the chamber until everyone else files out?

What are your thoughts on the SOTU? How did President Obama perform? And what about the responses from Representatives Paul Ryan and Michele Bachmann — how did they do?

Pics of Roberts, Kennedy, Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan at State of the Union
[Josh Blackman]

Earlier: Will SCOTUS Go to the SOTU This Year?
SCOTUS Slammed at SOTU; Alito Mouths ‘Not True’ at the President

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