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President Obama criticizes United States Supreme Court prompting response from Chief Justice

The Obama Administration is taking heat from Republican senators and the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court for remarks the President made during the State of the Union, which were critical of a recent Supreme Court decision regarding campaign finance reform.

The independence of the court is little debated and often taken for granted. But an independent court is vital to democracy and has a far-reaching impact, from national debate over abortion and gun control to future cases the court might hear regarding Massachusetts criminal defense.

The judicial branch must operate independently of the executive branch (White House) and the legislative branch (Congress), which is the primary reason why Supreme Court Justices are appointed to the bench for life.

FOX News is reporting that two senators (with no apparent acknowledgment of the irony of the legislative branch now becoming involved with court affairs) have called on Obama to stop criticizing the court. Chief Justice John Roberts took umbrage at the President’s criticism during his State of the Union address.

Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch said he agreed with Roberts, who also said it was “very troubling” that the annual speech has “degenerated into a political pep rally.”

“But the president was wrong on the law, he was wrong on the facts and I thought it was unseemly for him to criticize the Supreme Court while they’re sitting there … they’re a separate branch of government. They’re not there to be lectured to by the president of the United States.”

During the speech, at which six of the justices were in attendance, Obama criticized a 5-4 January decision that found government limits on corporate funded, independent political broadcasts during elections constitute a violation of free speech rights.

Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, also chimed in to voice his criticism.

“I was disappointed and dismayed to hear the president of the United States mischaracterize the decision of the Supreme Court and scold the members of the court in his State of the Union address for something they didn’t do,” Sessions said.

Chief Justice Roberts, speaking on Tuesday at the University of Alabama, questioned whether justices should attend the address.

“To the extent the State of the Union has degenerated into a political pep rally, I’m not sure why we’re there,” said Roberts, who was nominated to the court by President George W. Bush and approved by the Senate in 2005.

Roberts said anyone is free to criticize the court and that some have an obligation to do so because of their positions.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs stood by the President’s comments, saying the flood of corporate money is drowning out the voice of average Americans.

“The president has long been committed to reducing the undue influence of special interests and their lobbyists over government,” Gibbs said. “That is why he spoke out to condemn the decision and is working with Congress on a legislative response.”

The Washinton Post said the issue may be resonating with voters after 1,500 comments were posted on its website.

The Wall Street Journal said the incident may be the most overt criticism of the court by a sitting President since Franklin Roosevelt engaged in an epic battle with the court over New Deal initiatives.

Massachusetts Criminal Defense Attorney Michael DelSignore offers free and confidential appointments to clients facing serious traffic or criminal offenses in the Boston area, including Stoughton, Attleboro, New Bedford,and Westborough.

Call for a free consultation at 508-455-4755 or send an email.

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