Shirola: Schumer’s attack on Supreme Court is dangerous to democracy

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Wesley Shirola, Assistant Opinion Editor

Pro-choice advocates were rallying outside the Supreme Court on Wednesday as the justices were hearing oral arguments over a 2014 Louisiana abortion law that requires doctors performing abortions to hold admitting privileges at a hospital no more than 30 miles away from the abortion clinic.

The case is especially relevant today since it marks the first time that the Court will hear a case of this kind since it gained a conservative majority in 2018 when President Donald Trump appointed Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the bench — he had previously appointed Justice Neil Gorsuch in 2017. Back in 2016, when the Supreme Court had a liberal majority, the justices struck down a similar Texas law. Wednesday’s case is thus in part a question of whether the justices will reaffirm that precedent or begin to relax long-standing legal doctrines holding “undue burdens” on abortion rights unconstitutional, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The United States Constitution was rather vague in its designing of the Supreme Court. It enumerated neither the exact powers and prerogatives of the Court nor did it lay out the organization of the Judicial Branch as a whole. Nevertheless, the Founding Fathers made one thing clear: The Supreme Court was to always be independent. Judicial independence ensures that justices are able to issue rulings based solely on the law, free of political influence.

The Supreme Court’s role in America is ever-expanding. Every year, its influence over society enlarges as more and more divisive issues fall under the scope of the Court. As such, making certain that justices are free from political influence is arguably more important than ever before. But recently, some leaders have seemingly begun to disregard this crucial principle as they willingly and purposefully attempt to corrupt the highest court in the land.

In attendance at Wednesday’s rally was Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D – N.Y.). Schumer hit a new low when he stood outside the Supreme Court that afternoon and stirred up the mob of pro-abortion activists declaring, “I want to tell you, Gorsuch. I want to tell you, Kavanaugh. You have released the whirlwind and you will pay the price. You won’t know what hit you if you go forward with these awful decisions.”

Schumer’s comments are nothing short of a threat against Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh. More importantly, though, they are unprofessional and outright dangerous to our democracy.

Chief Justice John Roberts, who usually tries his best to stay out of the limelight, responded to Trump’s own attacks on the judiciary in 2018 and released a statement in regard to Schumer’s after Wednesday’s hearing concluded.

“Justices know that criticism comes with the territory, but threatening statements of this sort from the highest levels of government are not only inappropriate, they are dangerous. All Members of the Court will continue to do their job, without fear or favor, from whatever quarter,” Justice Roberts wrote in the statement.

Even liberal legal scholar Larry Tribe responded, tweeting that the remarks were “inexcusable,” that Justice Roberts was right to condemn Schumer and that he should apologize and “take(s) back his implicit threat.”

Schumer backpedalled on the Senate floor Thursday saying he “shouldn’t have used the words.” That his apology was sincere is highly doubtful. “I’m from Brooklyn. We speak in strong language,” he said. In response to those finding his comments threatening Schumer proclaimed: “It is a gross distortion.”

Democrats must condemn Schumer’s words. Not doing so would be both extremely hypocritical — the party has sharply criticized Trump for his assaults on the independence of the court — and wrong. This is a chance for Democrats to stand up for what’s right. They should take it.

Wesley Shirola is a Weinberg junior. He can be contacted at wesleyshirola2021@u.northwestern.edu. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to opinion@dailynorthwestern.com. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.

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