WASHINGTON– U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA) joined all Republican senators in urging the Supreme Court to ignore Democrat’s political threats and remain independent while it considers cases regarding gun control and the Second Amendment.
Cassidy and the senators wrote to the court in response to a brief filed by Democrats that threatens to pack the court if it strikes down a law imposing stricter gun control on New York City residents. Court-packing is the practice of adding seats to the court for political gain to offset seats filled by a previous president, such as the seats President Trump filled with Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. Cassidy voted for both of those appointments.
“An independent judiciary is a cornerstone of what makes our Constitution great. Democrats are threatening to rewrite the rules if they don’t get their way. Such threats should not be tolerated,” said Cassidy.
Many Democratic presidential candidates have indicated support for packing the court, but the Democrats’ brief goes even further by commanding the Supreme Court to dismiss this case, or face a political restructuring of the Court.
“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,” wrote the senators. “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.”
Several Democrats filed a brief in the case of New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. City of New York in support of the city’s law that forbids transporting locked, unloaded handguns. In that brief, Democrats wrote that the court “was not well” and that “perhaps the court can heal itself” before the public demands that it be “restructured.”
While Cassidy is a strong supporter of Second Amendment rights, he and the Republican conference did not attempt to sway the court on the underlying case out of respect for an independent judiciary. Their letter concludes with:
“For our part, we promise this: While we remain Members of this body, the Democrats’ threat to ‘restructure’ the Court is an empty one. We share Justice Ginsburg’s view that ‘nine seems to be a good number.’ And it will remain that way as long as we are here.”
The full text of the letter is below:
Dear Mr. Harris:
We write with regard to the petition in the above-titled case. That petition challenges a New York City law forbidding the transportation of locked, unloaded handguns, with few exceptions, as a violation of the Second Amendment. The City changed its laws after the Court granted the Association’s petition. The Court therefore confronts the question whether the change in New York City’s laws has mooted the Second Amendment challenge.
On August 12, several of our Democrat colleagues filed a brief amicus curiae in support of the City urging the Court to dismiss the case as moot under Article III of the Constitution. We of course have no problem with Senators submitting amicus briefs. Many of us have done so. But our 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. The brief’s final paragraph warned: “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 implication is as plain as day: Dismiss this case, or we’ll pack the Court.
There is no greater example of the genius of our Constitution than its creation of an independent judiciary. Alexander Hamilton explained in Federalist No. 78 that “[t]he complete independence of the courts of justice is peculiarly essential to a limited Constitution.” Only an independent judiciary can “guard the Constitution and the rights of individuals from … dangerous innovations in the government, and serious oppressions of the minor party in the community.” And history has proven the wisdom of this design. Time and again, our independent federal courts have protected the constitutional rights of Americans from government overreach even when that overreach was politically popular.
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. 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 just pandering. They are a direct, immediate threat to the independence of the judiciary and the rights of all Americans.
The Association has asked this Court to consider the constitutionality of a law that it believes infringes on the basic constitutional rights of ordinary New Yorkers. Democrats have responded by threatening to pack the Court if it decides in favor of the Association. Americans cannot trust that their constitutional rights are secure if they know that Democrats will try to browbeat this Court into ruling against those rights.
We are deeply concerned by our colleagues’ amicus brief and the ideas it promotes. We take no position on the underlying Second Amendment question nor on the mootness issue currently before the Court. But judicial independence is not negotiable. We will brook no threats to this fundamental precept of our constitutional structure.
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. 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 of men.”
For our part, we promise this: While we remain Members of this body, the Democrats’ threat to “restructure[ ]” the Court is an empty one. We share Justice Ginsburg’s view that “nine seems to be a good number.” And it will remain that way as long as we are here.