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In an unusual move, President Obama called out the Supreme Court for its January 21st decision to reverse the restrictions on the ability of corporations to participate in federal campaigns. The ruling also ends the ban on political contributions by unions and other organizations.

The point of this article isn’t to discuss the merits of the decision reached by the highest court in our land. It’s certainly an important case and there are good arguments on either side.

However, is it proper for the President to call out the members of the Supreme Court in the way that he did? In case you haven’t seen it, please view the following video.

According to veteran Washington reporter Jamie Dupree, it isn’t unprecedented but it is rather unusual.

None of my colleagues could remember any President using a State of the Union Address to call for action by the Supreme Court, or to denounce one of High Court’s ruling.

So, I reviewed every single State of the Union Address and Message that’s been sent to Congress or delivered in person by a President, and the answer is, such a shout out to the Supremes is rare, indeed.

In 1953, President Eisenhower urged Congress to act on powers for the Food and Drug Administration, after the Court found a law on food inspections to be unconstitutional.

In 1937, President Franklin D. Roosevelt referred to the Justices indirectly, as he complained about recent rulings that limited some of his New Deal banking initiatives.

He goes on to say about the tone of the President’s remarks…

President Obama’s words were a bit more negative about a specific court ruling than almost any other President.

The rest of Dupree’s article can be read here.

The Supreme Court is certainly not beyond reproach. They’ve made mistakes from time to time and citizens as well as the President have the right to disagree and voice their opinions against the decision. However, it could be successfully argued that the State of the Union address, given in front of members of Congress and those justices of the Supreme Court attending the speech, is not the proper venue for such a verbal smackdown. First, it could be viewed as an act of intimidation towards a branch of the government whose lack of strength in numbers may make it more subject to unwarranted public pressure in making decisions of a similar nature. The members of the court are supposed to be free from that kind of meddling and Obama’s remarks certainly don’t help matters. Secondly, even though, as I mentioned, it is not unprecedented, it is certainly unusual by Presidential standards.

While Obama’s remarks were certainly not illegal, in my opinion, they were certainly unwarranted. I thought last year’s “You lie!” shout out by Representative Joe Wilson (R-SC) was inappropriate and I believe Obama’s comments toward the Supreme Court were similarly so.


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