Citing a 2019 Quinnipiac Poll that claims 55 percent of Americans believe Supreme Court is “motivated mainly by politics,” a group of Democratic senators attacked the court itself and the gun rights lobby in a brief regarding a Second Amendment case between the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association (NYSRPA) and New York City. The brief was signed by Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY), and Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL).
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The brief states that the Supreme Court is not, contrary to this popular belief, “a legislature.” It also argues that petitioners push the court into “undertak[ing] political projects” by using advertising campaigns and financial influence to shape the “composition of the court” to best suit their needs. More specifically, the brief claims that the NYSRPA, along with their parent organization, the National Rifle Association (NRA), used their considerable political power to push a nominee who would “break the tie” in Second Amendment cases.
The brief then cites a $1.2 million NRA advertisement in which the NRA claimed: “Four liberal justices oppose your right to self-defense. Four justices support your right to self-defense. President [Donald] Trump chose Brett Kavanaugh to break the tie. Your right to self-defense depends on this vote.”
Following this, the brief then slammed the Supreme Court for its inaction on Second Amendment cases, attacking Justice Anthony Kennedy in particular for his role in preventing gun rights issues from being discussed.
Finally, the brief moves on to Kavanaugh and, more specifically, a discussion of the Federalist Society and its influence on the American courts. The brief claims that the Federalist Society has taken millions in donations from the NRA and accounts for “over eighty-six percent of Trump administration nominees to the circuit courts of appeal” and to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Democrats then make a direct emotional appeal::
Out in the real world, Americans are murdered each day with firearms in classrooms or movie theaters or churches or city streets, and a generation of preschoolers is being trained in active-shooter survival drills. In the cloistered confines of this Court, and notwithstanding the public imperatives of these massacres, the NRA and its allies brashly presume, in word and deed, that they have a friendly audience for their “project.”
The second section of the brief is dedicated to alleging how Federalist Society’s funneling of NRA money “damages [the] court’s legitimacy.” The Democrats then quote the late Justice Benjamin Cardozo by saying justice “is not a knight-errant, roaming at will in pursuit of his own ideal of beauty or of goodness.” In the senators’ eyes, “courts do not undertake political projects.”
The brief ends with the searing indictment of the court’s present state, claiming that the majority of U.S. citizens “now believes the Supreme Court should be restructured in order to reduce the influence of politics” and that the Court needs “to heal itself” before the nation can properly heal from this month’s mass shootings.
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