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The Supreme Court and Congress are coequal branches of government. Justice Alito agrees that there are legitimate means for Members of Congress and senators to attempt to influence the decisions of the Court. They can file amicus curiae briefs for pending cases. They can pass legislation that, if signed by the President, can moot out a pending case. But Justice Alito cites an example where the Court was considering a gun-control case where, in his opinion, the Court was threatened. Does exercising their Constitutional authority constitute a threat?

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One can argue that the five Democratic senators who filed an amicus brief in 2019 for New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. City of New York were not exercising their constitutional authority. Rather, they were informing the court that they might exercise their constitutional authority later on if the court did not follow their wishes.

In a certain light, Justice Samuel Alito is right to call the senators’ actions a threat. They were letting the Supreme Court know that their approach to this particular gun case could compel them to take hostile, aggressive action, which meets the definition of a threat.

If the senators wanted to exercise their constitutional authority in 2019, they wouldn’t have been able to, as the senate was controlled by Republicans then. Lacking the votes to change the court, one might say that the senators resorted to a threat. Of course, one could use less polarizing language. It’s reasonable to call the brief a warning or an admonition.

Recently, Alito has conceded that the court isn’t perfect and could be changed. Yet Alito appears to believe that what happened in this specific instance was an example of the legislative branch trying to inappropriately influence the judicial branch. On the other hand, the senators seem to think that the judicial branch has been improperly swayed by Republican-led legislative and executive branches.

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