Justice Alito Breaches Etiquette and Shows Distaste Over Obama’s Criticism of Corporate Ruling re: Campaign Finance


WASHINGTON (Jan. 27) — It wasn’t quite “You lie!” but a shaking of the head and a muttered rebuke from Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito has sent the lip-reading blogosphere into a tizzy after President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address.

The moment came a little more than halfway into Obama’s speech, when the president criticized the high court’s landmark decision last week overturning limits on campaign spending by corporations.

“With all due deference to the separation of powers, the Supreme Court reversed a century of law to open the floodgates for special interests – including foreign corporations – to spend without limit in our elections,” Obama said, before calling on Congress to pass a law in response to the ruling that “helps to right this wrong.”
Alito, appointed to the court by President George W. Bush in 2005, voted with the majority in the decision, and as Obama voiced his criticism, he shook his head repeatedly and appeared to mouth “not true.”

Alito’s reaction was a sharp break from the unwritten rule of Supreme Court etiquette at presidential addresses to Congress. Justices rarely applaud even the most uncontroversial of presidential remarks. None of the other justices in attendance tonight, including Chief Justice John Roberts and Anthony Kennedy, the author of the campaign finance opinion, showed any visible reaction while seated in the court’s usual front row seats at the annual event.
The response by Alito immediately drew hackles from liberal bloggers, who compared it to the moment in Obama’s health care speech to Congress in September when Rep. Joe Wilson of South Carolina shouted “You lie!” at the president.

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