All 53 Republican senators sent a letter to the Supreme Court on Thursday impelling the court not to be “cowed by the threats” in an amicus brief submitted by five Democratic Senators earlier in the month. The controversial brief implored the justices to drop a case pertaining to a New York City gun law or risk appearing politically influenced.
In their letter to the high court, Republicans said the amicus brief in questioned represented an existential threat to the independence of the Supreme Court.
“[O]ur colleagues did more than raise legal arguments in favor of mootness. They openly threatened this Court with political retribution if it failed to dismiss the petition as moot,” they wrote. “The implication is plain as day: Dismiss this case, or we’ll pack the Court.”
Republicans didn’t stop there.
“But judicial independence is under assault. Democrats in Congress, and on the presidential campaign trail, have peddled plans to pack this Court with more justices in order to further their radical legislative agenda,” their letter said. “It’s one thing for politicians to peddle these ideas in Tweets or on the stump. But the Democrats’ amicus brief demonstrates that their court-packing plans are more than mere pandering. They are a direct, immediate threat to the independence of the judiciary and the rights of all Americans.”
The case in question stems from a legal challenge to a NYC law that prohibited gun owners from transporting their firearms to shooting ranges and second homes located outside city limits. After the New York Rifle & Pistol Association challenged the regulation as unconstitutional and the court petition, the city amended the law to allow for the transportation of guns anywhere owners are legally allowed to possess the firearm. Despite the change, the gun association has continued to press the justices to decide on the constitutionality of the law as it was originally passed.
In their response, Republicans did not take a position on the case, instead urging the court to remain independent in the face of Democrats’ unruly demands.
“We therefore ask that the Justices fulfill their oaths to ‘faithfully and impartially’ follow the law. They should rule in this case only as the law dictates, without regard to the identity of the parties or the politics of the moment,” the letter read. “They must not be cowed by the threats of opportunistic politicians. Our constitutional republic depends on an independent judiciary ruling impartially on the basis of what the law says. We ask that the Justices stand firm and do their part to protect our ‘government of laws, not men.’”
As previously reported by Law&Crime, the Democrats’ brief, which was authored by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island), was widely panned by legal experts for its audacious tone and tenor. In the brief, Whitehouse argued that if the court refused to vacate and remand the case to the lower court with instructions for it to be dismissed, the court may face a public backlash and calls for a “restructuring” of the court.
“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,” the brief said.
Harvard Law School professor Laurence Tribe described the brief as “stupidly threatening.”
[image via SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images]