Obama Absence At Scalia Funeral Unprecedented in Modern History

danjoseph | February 17, 2016
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 President Obama will become the first U.S. president to skip the funeral of a sitting Supreme Court justice in at least 65 years when he skips the funeral service for Justice Antonin Scalia, scheduled to be held this Saturday. 


While Supreme Court justices are appointed for life, in recent history most have retired from the bench prior to their deaths.

Most recently, President George W. Bush gave the eulogy at the funeral of Chief Justice William Rehnquist, who passed in 2005 while still on the bench.

Prior to Rehnquists' death, Dwight D. Eisenhower was photographed attending the funeral of Chief Justice Fred M. Vinson, who served on the court until he passed away in 1953. 

The funerals of sitting Supreme Court Justices were far more common before the 1950s, but it is unclear if sitting presidents attended the funeral services of those sitting justices or if not as few records of attendance exist. 

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said he didn't know what President Obama would be doing instead of attending Scalias' funeral - and, asked whether Obama would be playing golf on that day, Earnest wouldn't rule it out:

“I don’t have a sense of what the president’s plans are for Saturday.”

Presidents have often skipped the funerals of retired justices, but it is unclear as to whether President Obama is the first to skip that of a sitting justice.

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