Sans gavel, Roberts, 3 other justices expected at speech

Politics

FILE – In this Jan. 12, 2016 file photo, Chief Justice John Roberts arrives for the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington. Roberts, lately a fixture at the Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump, is expected to be among four Supreme Court justices at House of Representatives Tuesday evening for the president’s State of the Union speech. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Chief Justice John Roberts, lately a fixture at the Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump, was expected to be among four Supreme Court justices in the House of Representatives Tuesday evening for the president’s State of the Union speech.

Roberts has never missed a presidential address to Congress since joining the court in 2005, and he plans to be at the opposite end of the Capitol from the Senate Tuesday evening, despite an apparent cold he picked up during the trial over which he is presiding.

Roberts’ predecessor, Chief Justice William Rehnquist, was not present for the State of the Union speech President Bill Clinton delivered during his Senate impeachment trial in 1999. But Rehnquist rarely showed up for the speeches, and Roberts once related that Rehnquist missed one State of the Union because it conflicted with the watercolor class he was taking at the local YMCA.

Three other justices, Elena Kagan and Trump appointees Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, were expected to join Roberts Tuesday. Kagan also has been to every State of the Union address since she became a justice in 2010. Gorsuch and Kavanaugh also have perfect, though they have shorter attendance records. It is common for justices to be present for speeches by the president who chose them.

Justice Stephen Breyer often attends, but he is traveling and has flu-like symptoms that prevented him from returning to Washington for the speech, the court said.

Breyer was the only justice to cross the street from the court to the Capitol for at least four presidential speeches, including President George W. Bush’s first speech to Congress in 2001. That took place a couple months after the justices voted 5-4 in Bush v. Gore to stop Florida’s ballot recount and ensure Bush’s presidency. Breyer had opposed halting the recount.

In 2000, no justice attended Clinton’s last State of the Union. Breyer had the flu then, too.

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