The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Anyone who calls the Supreme Court too imposing is a heretic who should perish

Have you considered that actually you are the one undermining the legitimacy of the Supreme Court? (Reuters/Pool)

“It goes without saying that everyone is free to express disagreement with our decisions and to criticize our reasoning as they see fit. But saying or implying that the court is becoming an illegitimate institution or questioning our integrity crosses an important line.” — Supreme Court Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. , to the Wall Street Journal

First off, how dare you. Second of all, how dare you! I am calling up the Wall Street Journal now to say “how dare you” to them a third time! You are crossing a very important line by saying I am crossing an important line.

We all know that speech is not limitless. Some forms of speech are too reckless to be borne. For instance, everyone knows that shouting “Fire!” in a crowded theater is something you should never, ever do, even if I, Samuel Alito, am lighting your crowded theater on fire. Your shouting will cause a panic, and it is beyond the pale. If I am setting fires, I’m sure it is with good reason, and you ought to sit there patiently to find out what the reason is.

What should you do if you think the Supreme Court is becoming too political a body? Hush! That’s what you should do! If we were too political, I would be the first to know, and I know that we aren’t. Too political a body would be one that had Merrick Garland on it.

Follow Alexandra Petri's opinionsFollow

Have you considered that actually you are the one undermining the legitimacy of the Supreme Court? You and all your impertinent questions! It is certainly not I, anything I am doing, or the way the court is currently composed. The legitimacy of the Supreme Court, as we learned from Marbury v. Madison, is something that is handed down through a system of divine right. John Marshall was presented a set of scales by a mysterious arm that reached up out of the Potomac River, and from that point, nobody was allowed to question anything the court did. (Except, of course, for those decisions that it made with which I personally disagreed and which I gleefully overturned. But that was different.)

No, I won’t explain any further! All I know is that the legitimacy of the Supreme Court is something that ought to be taken on faith, as a matter of dogma — which, coincidentally, is also a pretty great way of making judicial decisions. Yes, I’m sure I have that right. When people talk about the separation of church and state, they just mean California.

Of course, there are some members of the Supreme Court you can disagree with readily, at any time. The minority, for instance. And no such deference is owed to the executive branch, at whom you may mouth your disagreement anytime you see fit.

But to call my court’s integrity into question — the temerity! This kind of horrible disrespect is the sort I will not suffer in silence. All I want is to live my life as I choose, holding sway over the entire nation without pushback or criticism. Yet at every turn my benevolence is met with treachery and complaint. Is this how you treat your unelected magistrate? Nobody shall exert undue control over my judicial body.

This is what I am always warning about: the creeping tyranny of people saying, “Your opinion is ill-considered,” or, “This seems political,” or, “You are free to have those beliefs, but I don’t think, in the United States, you get to impose them on others.” Imagine being any more oppressed than this! You can’t! I certainly can’t!

So stop questioning my authority! You know what it’s called when you question the integrity of the Supreme Court, as a majority of Americans now do? “Free speech in a free country”? Who said that? Find the heretic, and seize him! Seize him!