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Justice Alito's conduct at the State of the Union address a serious breach of protocol

(updated below)

As I wrote at the time, I thought the condemnations of Rep. Joe Wilson's heckling of Barack Obama during his September health care speech were histrionic and excessive.  Wilson and Obama are both political actors, it occurred in the middle of a political speech about a highly political dispute, and while the outburst was indecorous and impolite, Obama is not entitled to be treated as royalty.  That was all much ado about nothing.  By contrast, the behavior of Justice Alito at last night's State of the Union address -- visibly shaking his head and mouthing the words "not true" when Obama warned of the dangers of the Court's Citizens United ruling -- was a serious and substantive breach of protocol that reflects very poorly on Alito and only further undermines the credibility of the Court.  It has nothing to do with etiquette and everything to do with the Court's ability to adhere to its intended function.

There's a reason that Supreme Court Justices -- along with the Joint Chiefs of Staff -- never applaud or otherwise express any reaction at a State of the Union address.  It's vital -- both as a matter of perception and reality -- that those institutions remain apolitical, separate...

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