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As President Joe Biden prepared to give his second State of the Union address Tuesday evening, he likely noticed not all of the U.S. Supreme Court justices were present for his speech. Reports on Wednesday noted that four of them skipped the event.
In opening his address, the president greeted five justices — John Roberts, Elena Kagan, Brett Kavanaugh, Amy Coney Barrett, and Ketanji Brown Jackson — but Clarence Thomas, Sam Alito, Sonia Sotomayor, and Neil Gorsuch did not attend.
It’s not clear at this point why they skipped out on the SOTU.
“The story of America is a story of progress and resilience,” Biden said to begin his address after recognizing Brown Jackson, whom he nominated. “Of always moving forward. Of never giving up. A story that is unique among all nations. We are the only country that has emerged from every crisis stronger than when we entered it. That is what we are doing again.”
Biden has been critical of the court, in general, over the past several months, especially after a majority ruled in June to overturn Roe v. Wade and send the issue of abortion back to the states.
In October, during a virtual fundraiser for Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, a Democrat from the president’s home state of Delaware, he said that the Supreme Court is “more of an advocacy group these days,” The Independent reported.
“I view this off-year election as one of the most important elections that I’ve been engaged in because a lot can change because the institutions have changed,” he said. “The Supreme Court is more of an advocacy group these days than it is… evenhanded about it.”
Last summer, the Biden administration was criticized by governors from surrounding states for allowing protests to occur in front of some justices’ homes after they decided to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 case that legalized abortion in all 50 states.
The GOP governors of Maryland and Virginia responded to a letter from the Supreme Court’s highest-ranking security official after he called on them to utilize their own law enforcement resources to prevent protests at the homes of the justices.
“The governor agrees with the Marshal that the threatening activity outside the Justices’ homes has increased,” Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin spokesperson Christian Martinez said in response to a letter from Supreme Court Marshal Gail Curley that called on the governor to “enforce state law” prohibiting picketing outside the homes of the justices, Fox News reported.
“He welcomes the Marshal of the Supreme Court’s request for Fairfax County to enforce state law as they are the primary enforcement authority for the state statute,” the statement continued.
But Youngkin himself called on U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland to “do his job” by “enforcing the much more robust federal law.”
“Every resource of federal law enforcement, including the U.S. Marshals, should be involved while the Justices continue to be denied the right to live peacefully in their homes,” the GOP governor added.
Biden has also had difficulty implementing much of his agenda, thanks to decisions by the nation’s highest court.
In December, for instance, justices expressed skepticism and directed tough questions at the Biden administration in a closely-watched case involving damage to private property along a Forest Service road.
“Justices appeared skeptical of the Justice Department’s argument that property owners couldn’t bring a case against the government because of a 12-year limit on when a lawsuit could be filed. The case, Wilkins v. United States, involves a road leading to the Bitterroot National Forest in Montana, on which the Forest Service had an easement allowing for public access,” SCOTUS Blog reported.
“But two property owners say it was rarely used for that purpose until the agency in 2006 posted a sign on the road — ‘public access thru private lands’ — that attracted more visitors, who trespassed on their land and, in one instance, shot an owner’s cat. Assistant to the Solicitor General Ben Snyder took some of the most spirited questioning, including from Justice Elena Kagan, who dove into the government’s interpretation of drive-by statements in past cases to argue that the 12-year statute of limitations should preclude the complaint,” the outlet added.