The liberty principle for this Freedom Friday concerns a recent threat from Senate Democrats to the Justices of the U.S. Supreme Court. There is a case – New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. City of New York – that Democrats do not want the Justices to hear. The case has to do with a petition against a law in New York City about how to transport handguns. The law is obviously anti-Second Amendment, and the Justices can probably see that it is. However, the problem is with the threat from the Democrat Senators.
The threat comes in a brief filed in a gun-rights case, a dispute over yet another gun rule in New York City.
And it comes from Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Mazie Hirono, D. Hawaii, Richard Durbin, D-Ill., and Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.
They openly challenge the impartiality of the sitting justices, noting that “From October Term 2005 through October Term 2017, this court issued 78 5-4 (or 5-3) opinions in which justices appointed by Republican presidents provided all five votes in the majority.”
They continued with their warning, “In 73 of these 5-4 decisions, the cases concerned interests important to the big funders, corporate influencers, and political base of the Republican Party….
“Today, 55 percent of Americans believe the Supreme Court is ‘mainly motivated by politics’ (up five percent from last year); 59 percent believe the court is ‘too influenced by politics’; and a majority now believes the ‘Supreme Court should be restructured in order to reduce the influence of politics,’” the Democrats said.
Then came the threat: “The Supreme Court is not well. And the people know it. Perhaps the court can heal itself before the public demands it be ‘restructured in order to reduce the influence of politics.’ Particularly on the urgent issue of gun control, a nation desperately needs it to heal.”
In other words, the Democrat Senators are saying, “We want more gun control. If you do not decide the way we want you to decide in this case, we will restructure the Supreme Court.” The Democrats want the Supremes to turn down the New York City case because it is political in nature. “Turn it down, or we will pack the Court!”
Republican Senators sent their own letter to the Supreme Court. It was signed by 56 Republican Senators with leadership from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Their message: Don’t be afraid of the Democrats’ threats.
The Democrats’ threat to pack the Court if it doesn’t rule the way they want is synonymous in American history with the idea of an unprincipled power grab. Instead of improving their arguments, our colleagues seem determined to undermine our constitutional structure,” McConnell said in a statement. “Senate Republicans reject this dangerous and opportunistic assault on our independent judiciary and will continue to uphold our oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
This is not the first time that Democrats wanted to change the structure of the Supreme Court in order to have justices that voted the way the Democrats want. President Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) was pushing through legislation, and the Supreme Court kept stopping his New Deal legislation. He decided to put restrictions on the Supreme Court.
But in the late 1930s, President Franklin D. Roosevelt wanted to put restrictions on the court when it came to age. Largely seen as a political ploy to change the court for favorable rulings on New Deal legislation, the Judicial Procedures Reform Bill of 1937, commonly referred to as the “court-packing plan,” was Roosevelt’s attempt to appoint up to six additional justices to the Supreme Court for every justice older than 70 years, 6 months, who had served 10 years or more.
The bill was never voted on in Congress. The Supreme Court went public with how they felt about the bill, and most Americans were against it. Congress and Americans citizens saw FDR’s bill as an undemocratic power grab. Hopefully, the Supreme Court will go public with the latest threat from Democrats, so the American public can see how they feel about it. I also hope that Republican Senators stand tall in their defense of the Supreme Court.