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Wednesday, February 01, 2006 

Can We Clap?

Orin Kerr at Volokh links to Dana Milbank's examination of the Justices and their State of the Union clapping. Kerr quotes the best part...
At times, Alito followed the lead of the other three justices who sat with him in the front row. When Bush said "We love our freedom, and we will fight to keep it," Thomas looked at Roberts, who looked at Breyer, who gave an approving shrug; all four gentlemen stood and gave unanimous applause.
At other times, Alito showed independence from his senior colleagues. When Bush delivered the stock line "The state of our union is strong," Alito dissented while the other three robed justices in the front row applauded. When Bush declared that "liberty is the right and hope of all humanity," Alito was the only member of the judicial quartet to provide his concurring applause.
It seemed from their frequent conferences that the justices had agreed on some ground rules: Any mention of Iraq or hot domestic disputes were off limits; broad appeals to patriotism were deemed applause-worthy. But there were disputes. When Bush said "We will never surrender to evil," the justices conferred briefly. Breyer shook his head, but Roberts overruled him, and Breyer reluctantly stood with his three colleagues.
I noticed it too. I was pretty surprised to see four Justices in attendance. If my memory serves, Breyer was the only one there last year and he was joined by Thomas the year before that. Most of the Justices like to avoid such a political event. This is probably for two reasons. First, they might not have such tender feelings for the other two branches of the government. Second, the clapping issue. They don't want to clap for anything that is overtly partisan. They also don't want to be so distant as to look like they don't care about the country. It's a weird situation for them.

I was glad to see them there though. It would've been nice if Justice Scalia had been there too. The Justices were seated right in front of the Democratic leadership too. Roberts, Scalia, Thomas, and Alito would make a nice, new Four Horsemen.

EDIT: Your new Supreme Court Justice...

Alito happy, Breyer grinning at the floor, Thomas laughing it up, and the Chief's bald spot.

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