Four Supreme Court Justices absent from Biden's State of the Union

By 
 February 8, 2023

Four Supreme Court Justices did not attend President Biden's State of the Union speech Tuesday night. 

Conservatives Neil Gorsuch, Samuel Alito, and Clarence Thomas and liberal Sonia Sotomayor all did not make appearances.

Supreme Court justices absent

Brett Kavanaugh, John Roberts, Elena Kagan, Ketanji Brown Jackson, and Amy Coney Barrett were all present. Two retired justices were also there -- Anthony Kennedy and Stephen Breyer, who were replaced on the court by Kavanaugh and Jackson, respectively.

It has become increasingly common for justices to sit out the State of the Union, which is not known for high-minded substance.

Thomas, who hasn't been since 2006, told the New York Times in 2010 that it is uncomfortable for justices to attend became it has become “so partisan."

“There’s a lot that you don’t hear on TV,” Thomas said. “The catcalls, the whooping and hollering and under-the-breath comments.”

Biden targets court -- again

Sure enough, Tuesday's event was a partisan spectacle. Biden insulted the intelligence of viewers with a series of wild boasts about the economy, and then provoked a furious response from Republicans when he accused them of wanting to cut Social Security and Medicare.

Biden also scolded the Supreme Court for repealing Roe v. Wade and called on Congress to codify the "constitutional right to choose" an abortion -- a direct rebuke of the court, which ruled last year that no such constitutional right exists.

Three of the justices who voted to end Roe were present for Biden's rebuke -- Kavanaugh, Roberts, and Barrett.

"Congress must restore the right the Supreme Court took away last year and codify Roe v. Wade to protect every woman’s constitutional right to choose," he said.

"Unity"

When the court overturned Roe last year, Biden called the opinion, which was authored by Alito, "extreme." 

Despite his sometimes-sharp criticism of a separate branch of government, Biden returned to familiar themes of "democracy," civility, and respect for institutions in his speech Tuesday night.

He mentioned the attack on Paul Pelosi -- who was an invited guest -- and January 6th, which Biden compared to the Civil War.

However, he made no mention of the attempted assassination of Brett Kavanaugh last summer, something many blamed on Biden -- who at the time refused to condemn mobs gathering outside the justices' homes.

"We must all speak out. There is no place for political violence in America.....We must uphold the rule of the law and restore trust in our institutions of democracy," Biden told the House chamber.

" A free people [claim] their rights, as derived from the laws of nature."
Thomas Jefferson
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