Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito issued a chilling warning about Democrats’ threats to “restructure” the Court in his keynote speech for a Federalist Society meeting on Thursday. Alito referred to an astonishing brief five Democratic senators — Sheldon Whitehouse, Mazie Hirono, Richard Blumenthal, Richard Durbin, and Kirsten Gillibrand — filed in a Second Amendment case last year. The senators wrote that the Court “is not well,” and warned that the public might demand it be “restructured in order to reduce the influence of politics.”
Alito warned that this chilling brief echoes the threats of governments run by force rather than by law.
He noted that the five senators “wrote that the Supreme Court is a sick institution and that if the Court did not mend its ways, it might have to be ‘restructured.'” After the senators’ brief, the Court ruled in favor of their position on the case.
“I am not suggesting that the Court’s decision was influenced by the senators’ threat, but I am concerned that the outcome might be viewed that way by the senators and others with thoughts of bullying the Court,” Alito warned.
“This little episode, I’m afraid, may provide a foretaste of what the Court will face in the future,” he added. “The senators’ brief was extraordinary. I could say something about standards of professional conduct, but the brief involved something even more important. It was an affront to the Constitution and the rule of law.”
“Under the Constitution, we exercise the judicial power of the United States. Congress has no right to interfere with that work any more than we have the right to legislate. Our obligation is to decide cases based on the law, period. And it is therefore wrong for anybody, including members of Congress, to try to influence our decisions by anything other than legal argumentation,” Alito noted.
“That sort of thing has often happened in countries governed by power, not law,” the justice warned. “A Supreme Court justice from one such place recounted what happened when his court was considering a case that was very important to those in power. He looked out the window and saw a tank pull up and point its gun toward the court. The message was clear: decide the right way, or the courthouse might be, shall we say, ‘restructured.'”
“That was a crude threat, but all threats and inducements are intolerable,” Alito concluded.
When the Democrats openly plot to “restructure” the Supreme Court by limiting the tenure of justices or by adding more justices to the Court — known as Court-packing — they echo totalitarians who use force, not law, to get their way.
Luckily, it seems unlikely that the Democrats will be able to pack the Court in the next two years. Democrats lost seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and Republicans have held on to 50 seats in the U.S. Senate. It seems unlikely that Democrats will win both of the Senate runoffs in Georgia on January 5, and even if they do, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) has pledged that he will vote against schemes to remake America’s political system, specifically against Court-packing.
Even so, it is extremely ominous that Democrats are becoming more vocal about “restructuring” the Supreme Court. Democrats cannot stand the fact that originalist justices will prevent the Court from unilaterally amending the Constitution to force their leftist agenda on the country. Alito was right to warn about their threat to America’s constitutional system.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.