The Supreme Court's "flaming feminist litigator" — as the Notorious RBG once referred to herself — might be making a habit of skipping out on Trump's big moments. Ruth Bader Ginsburg won't attend Trump's SOTU, though she made a point to make it to every single address when Obama was president.
Last year, Ginsburg skipped Trump's joint address to Congress (as did Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas). And she'll miss Trump's first official State of the Union address as well, the Associated Press reported. Instead of attending the speech, she will be participating in a “fireside chat” on Tuesday evening at the Roger Williams University School of Law.
The Bristol, Rhode Island, law school announced Ginsburg's participation in the chat back in August, far before the State of the Union was on anyone's radar. The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Senior Judge Bruce M. Selya, who also serves on the school's board of directors, said the event will give Ginsburg a platform to "expound on matters that will be of interest to law students and law faculty, to talk about how she goes about her job, and to offer reflections on her life experience." He said:
What Rhode Island can look forward to is a visit from a woman who is both a thought leader in this country – a historic figure in her own right – and someone who every person in this state would be pleased and proud to have for a neighbor.
Ginsburg's relationship with the president has been mostly shaped by comments she made before the election. In an interview with CNN, she called him a "faker." Talking to The New York Times, the justice signaled she'd consider moving to New Zealand if he were to win. Ginsburg later apologized for commenting on elections. "Judges should avoid commenting on a candidate for public office. In the future I will be more circumspect," Ginsburg said in a statement issued by the court.
Trump seized on this in a tweet, calling her to step down. "Justice Ginsburg of the U.S. Supreme Court has embarrassed all by making very dumb political statements about me. Her mind is shot — resign!" Trump wrote.
Since the election, Ginsburg has been more guarded in her comments, but that doesn't mean she's itching to hear him speak for an hour. And she has precedent on her side. Plenty of Supreme Court justices have skipped SOTUs in the past. Antonin Scalia hadn't been to one since 1997 before he passed away in 2016.
In fact, before 1965, the SOTU was in the afternoon, and justices would frequently have oral arguments scheduled at the same time. Only once the event moved to primetime television that year did justices start to attend.
But for some, the environment makes them feel uncomfortable. Thomas told The New York Times in 2010 that the partisan environment made him too uncomfortable. Obama that year criticized the court during the State of the Union for its Citizens United decision. "I don't go because it has become so partisan and it's very uncomfortable for a judge to sit there," Thomas told the paper. "There's a lot that you don't hear on TV — the catcalls, the whooping and hollering and under-the-breath comments."
During Obama's eight years, Ginsburg made a point to showing up for such addresses — even if it led to some embarrassing moments. In 2015, Ginsburg fell asleep during the State of the Union. On national TV, her head was visually slumped over. She would later blame it on a glass of wine, noting that she was not "100 percent sober."
But this year that won't be a problem, as she'll be entertaining law students more than 400 miles away.