Thursday, August 29, 2019


So this is happening:
The Supreme Court in January said it would hear New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. City of New York, a case involving some unique-to-New-York restrictions on how gun owners with permits may transport their weapons. The rules were so strict that they forbade taking an unloaded weapon to a firing range outside the city or to a permit-holder’s second home within the state....

The city of New York rescinded the regulations that the gun groups and owners had objected to, and the state legislature passed a law prohibiting their reinstatement. The two sides are now sparring over whether that renders the case moot, something the court is scheduled to consider Oct. 1.
This case is obviously "moot" as any normal non-lawyer would understand the concept of mootness -- the law being challenged is no longer in force and can never be reinstated. But liberals worry -- quite reasonably -- that our Federalist Society Supreme Court might decide to hear the case anyway and use it as an excuse to legislate from the bench, loosening gun laws because gun-law loosening is one of the top long-term projects of movement conservatism.

So five Democratic U.S. senators wrote a brief urging the Court not to do that.
“The Supreme Court is not well. And the people know it,” writes [Rhode Island senator Sheldon] Whitehouse, who is listed as the attorney of record on the friend-of-the-court brief. “Perhaps the Court can heal itself before the public demands it be ‘restructured in order to reduce the influence of politics.’ ” The phrase is from a poll question with which a majority of Americans agreed.

Democratic Sens. Mazie Hirono (Hawaii), Richard Blumenthal (Conn.) Richard J. Durbin (Ill.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.) joined the incendiary brief, which questions whether the court’s conservative majority — nominated by three Republican presidents — is motivated by partisan intent and is in the pocket of the National Rifle Association and the Federalist Society, a conservative legal group.

“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,” Whitehouse writes. “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.’”
Please note that there are 45 Democratic senators, plus two independents who caucus with the Democrats. Only five of these senators signed the brief. The Democratic Senate caucus as a whole is not on board with it.

But now all the Republican senators have fired back -- even the few who pretend to be moderate and opposed to partisanship:
All 53 Republicans in the Senate urged the Supreme Court on Thursday not to be “cowed” by a brief from a handful of Democratic senators that warned that the court risks its impartial reputation if it continues to hear a gun case that the Democrats consider moot.

In a letter to the court’s clerk, the Republicans said the brief filed by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and four other Democrats “openly threatened this court with political retribution if it failed to dismiss the petition as moot.”

The justices “must not be cowed by the threats of opportunistic politicians,” said the letter, drafted by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)....

The letter notes that some Democrats in Congress and some of the party’s presidential candidates have said they would consider increasing the number of seats on the Supreme Court to dilute its conservative majority.

“The Democrats’ amicus brief demonstrates that their court-packing plans are more than mere pandering,” the Republican letter states. “They are a direct, immediate threat to the independence of the judiciary and the rights of all Americans.”
And because McConnell loves to twist the knife, his letter includes this:
“We share Justice Ginsburg’s view that ‘nine seems to be a good number,’ they said. “And it will remain that way as long as we are here.”
Yes -- unless Republicans hold the Senate while a Democrat is president, in which case the number of sitting justices will undoubtedly be reduced to eight indefinitely as soon as Ginsberg retires, and from there to seven, or six, or ...

I'm reading about this as I also read about Arizona governor Doug Ducey's project to turn the Arizona state supreme court into an arm of the GOP, a project that has included court-packing -- Ducey signed a bill to add two seats to the court in 2016. So spare me the pieties about leaving the courts alone.

Five Democrats tried to call the Supreme Court on its naked partisanship. They're now facing off against 53 Republicans, who are urging the Supremes to act as an unelected legislature, accusing the small group of Democrat of intimidation while engaging in intimidation themselves. Because the Democratic Party isn't a fundamentally radical organizations, Democrats still struggle when they tryto counteract the bullying of the GOP.

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