SCOTUS in the house at SOTU.

President Barack Obama delivered his State of the Union address this evening, and it was even less exciting than last year (which was less exciting than the year before, when the famous Obama v. Alito showdown over Citizens United took place). Tonight was light on drama — one of the most compelling moments came early on, with the arrival in the chamber of retiring Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords — and President Obama’s speech was light on new ideas. Considering that we’re in an election year, with no major legislation likely to pass anytime soon, this shouldn’t come as a surprise.

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

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.

President Obama whispers sweet nothings to the justices - e.g., 'Uphold Obamacare.'

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

  • Five Supreme Court justices attended: Chief Justice Roberts, and Justices Kennedy, Ginsburg, Breyer, and Kagan. (Justice Sotomayor, who attended last year, is visiting Guam right now.)
  • President Obama greeted the justices and chatted with them briefly upon entering the chamber (see photo above).
  • Sometimes we forget that lawyers aren’t the center of the universe — but tonight reminded us of that fact. There were very few legal shout-outs in the address.
  • The most prominent law-related comment: President Obama calling on Attorney General Eric Holder “to create a special unit of federal prosecutors and leading state attorneys general to expand our investigations into the abusive lending and packaging of risky mortgages that led to the housing crisis. This new unit will hold accountable those who broke the law, speed assistance to homeowners, and help turn the page on an era of recklessness that hurt so many Americans.”
  • Some of the other notable law-related mentions: discussion of using the tax code to provide incentives to keep jobs in the United States, praise for the bringing of trade cases against China, a call for addressing illegal immigration through comprehensive immigration reform, and urging Congress to reduce the regulatory and tax burdens on small businesses.
  • As for observations of the chamber, some observers wondered if Justice Ginsburg was nodding off during the president’s speech. I didn’t see this myself, but it wouldn’t shock me, since it happened last year.
  • During the president’s discussion of energy policy, the camera panned to Energy Secretary Steven Chu — known in these pages as brother of superstar IP litigator Morgan Chu.

What did you notice during tonight’s State of the Union? Your thoughts on the SOTU — President Obama’s performance, as well as the responses from Governor Mitch Daniels, for the Republicans, and Herman Cain, for the Tea Party — are welcome, in the comments.

Obama State of the Union transcript: Full text [Politico]

Earlier: SCOTUS at the SOTU: Some Historical Perspective
Prior ATL coverage of the State of the Union


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