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Six justices to attend State of the Union speech

Amid growing concern over politicization of the Supreme Court, it appears likely that Justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas will skip President Obama's address.

January 25, 2011|By David G. Savage, Washington Bureau

Reporting from Washington — Six Supreme Court justices are expected to attend President Obama's State of the Union speech Tuesday, amid growing concern over the politicization of the nation's high court.

A court spokesman would not identify which of the panel's nine justices would attend, but it appeared likely that Justices Samuel A. Alito Jr., Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas would be the three to skip the president's speech. Alito, who shook his head in disagreement as Obama spoke last year, had accepted an offer to teach law classes in Hawaii this week.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. has expressed reservations about attending the speech, calling it a "political pep rally." But he would likely attend out of respect for the institution and to avoid a more partisan representation of the court at the speech.

The newest justice, Elena Kagan, is likely to attend; she replaced Justice John Paul Stevens, who rarely attended the State of the Union addresses.

Scalia's appearance Monday at a meeting organized by the House Tea Party caucus and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) provoked new cries from liberals and some academics that conservative justices are shedding the appearance of impartiality.

dsavage@tribune.com

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