Justice Antonin Scalia's remarks on President Obama's immigration policy are not the first criticisms aimed at the president by the highest court in the country. Indeed, immigration is only the latest in a long line of recent issues that have tripped up relations between the executive and judicial branches in the past few years, all starting when Chief Justice John Roberts stumbled over Obama's oath of office in January 2009.
|Jan. 20, 2009: Chief Justice Roberts Forgets the Oath|
When Roberts switched the order of the opening of the presidential oath of office - moving around the word "faithfully" - both he and Obama stumbled on the recovery, as seen in the transcript: ROBERTS: I, Barack Hussein Obama ...
OBAMA: I, Barack ...
ROBERTS: ... do solemnly swear ... OBAMA: I, Barack Hussein Obama, do solemnly swear ... ROBERTS: ... that I will execute the office of president to the United States faithfully ... OBAMA: ... that I will execute ... ROBERTS: ... faithfully the office of president of the United States ... OBAMA: ... the office of president of the United States faithfully ...
|Jan. 27, 2010: State of the Union Disagreement|
In Obama's 2010 State of the Union address, he used his bully pulpit to slam the Supreme Court's recent Citizens United decision:
"With all due deference to separation of powers, last week the Supreme Court reversed a century of law to open the floodgates for special interests -- including foreign corporations -- to spend without limit in our elections. Well, I don't think American elections should be bankrolled by America's most powerful interests, or worse, by foreign entities. They should be decided by the American people, and that's why I'd urge Democrats and Republicans to pass a bill that corrects some of these problems."
Justice Samuel Alito didn't let the criticism go unanswered even for a minute, however: He was seen mouthing "That's not true," as Obama continued to speak.
|March 11, 2010: Roberts Responds to a Matter of Decorum|
Chief Justice John Roberts brought the issue up again to a group of law students in Alabama March 11:
"First of all, anybody can criticize the Supreme Court without any qualm," he said, adding, "some people, I think, have an obligation to criticize what we do, given their office, if they think we've done something wrong." He continued: "On the other hand, there is the issue of the setting, the circumstances and the decorum. The image of having the members of one branch of government standing up, literally surrounding the Supreme Court, cheering and hollering while the court -- according to the requirements of protocol -- has to sit there expressionless, I think is very troubling."
|March 11, 2010: The President Strikes Back|
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs quickly responded to Roberts' comments in Alabama on behalf of Obama:
"What is troubling is that this decision opened the floodgates for corporations and special interests to pour money into elections, drowning out the voices of average Americans. The president has long been committed to reducing the undue influence of special interests and their lobbyists over government. That is why he spoke out to condemn the decision."
On the same day, another White House official claimed that the dispute was not related to party politics, but did slam the Supreme Court's motives, saying that the Citizens United decision "is really about the president's change agenda."
|April 2, 2012: Obama Warns Supreme Court|
All remained quiet between the president and the Supreme Court until this spring, when Obama's remarks on the Supreme Court's impending decision on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act ignited a major controversy:
"Ultimately, I'm confident that the Supreme Court will not take what would be an unprecedented extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress," the president said.
|April 3, 2012: Judge Gives Holder Homework|
Judge Jerry Smith, who sits on an appeals court in Texas, shot back against Obama's government lawyer the next day, assigning Attorney General Eric Holder homework to justify the president's warning:
"I would like to have from you by noon on Thursday ... a letter stating what is the position of the attorney general in the Department of Justice in regard to the recent statements by the president, stating specifically, and in detailed reference to those statements, what the authority is in the federal courts in this regard in terms of judicial review," Smith said. "The letter needs to be at least three pages, single-spaced and it needs to be specific."
|April 3, 2012: Obama Lectures Supreme Court on Responsibility|
The president explained his warning to the Supreme Court:
"The point I was making is that the Supreme Court is the final say on our Constitution and our laws, and all of us have to respect it," he said, "but it's precisely because of that extraordinary power that the court has traditionally exercised significant restraint and deference to our duly elected legislature, our Congress."
|April 5, 2012: Holder Hands in Not-Quite-Three-Page Letter|
Holder's (slightly too short) homework assignment came in on April 5. In it, the attorney general defended the commander in chief, saying:
"At no point has the government suggested that the court would lack authority to review plaintiffs' constitutional claims if the Court were to conclude that jurisdiction exists."
|June 25, 2012: Scalia Mind Boggled by Obama|
Scalia slammed Obama in his dissenting opinion in the Arizona immigration decision Monday, letting the president know exactly what he thought of the administration's stance on immigration:
"The president said at a news conference that the new program is 'the right thing to do' in light of Congress' failure to pass the administration's proposed revision of the Immigration Act," Scalia, a Reagan appointee, wrote in his dissent. "Perhaps it is, though Arizona may not think so. But to say, as the court does, that Arizona contradicts federal law by enforcing applications of the Immigration Act that the president declines to enforce boggles the mind."
|June 28, 2012: Roberts Upholds Health Care - But Only Because He Doesn't Do Policy|
In an unexpected turn of events, Roberts voted in favor of upholding the Affordable Care Act on June 28 - and wrote the opinion for the 5-4 decision. It seems he's a bit lukewarm on the legislation from a policy stance, however:
"Members of this Court are vested with the authority to interpret the law; we possess neither the expertise nor the prerogative to make policy judgments. Those decisions are entrusted to our Nation's elected leaders, who can be thrown out of office if the people disagree with them. It is not our job to protect the people from the consequences of their political choices."