Supreme Court demands local officials do more to protect justices

The Supreme Court is calling on officials in Maryland and Virginia to step up security for justices as protests over the overturning of Roe V. Wade continue.

In letters sent to Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich and Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeffrey McKay, Supreme Court Marshal Gail Curley requested they direct state and local law enforcement to enforce anti-picketing laws outside the justices’ homes.

“You recently stated that you were ‘deeply concerned’ that ‘hundreds of demonstrators have recently chosen to picket Supreme Court Justices at their homes in … Maryland’ while using ‘threatening language’ jeopardizing ‘the integrity of our American judicial system and the safety of our citizens,'” Curley wrote in her letter to Hogan.

Since then, she said, protests outside justices’ homes and threatening activity against them have only increased.

In May, Hogan and Youngkin wrote a joint letter to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland after protests broke out with the leaking of the draft opinion suggesting conservative justices would vote to overturn abortion rights.

The two Republican governors called on the Department of Justice to “provide sustained resources to protect the Justices and ensure these residential areas are secure in the weeks and months ahead.”

Hogan’s office responded to Curley’s letter saying that state and local law enforcement “have been on the front lines every day protecting these communities. In light of the continued refusal by multiple federal entities to act, the governor has directed Maryland State Police to further review enforcement options that respect the First Amendment and the Constitution.”

In her letter to Youngkin, Curley said that for weeks, large groups of protestors have been gathering outside justices’ homes in Virginia, “chanting slogans, using bullhorns, and banging drums.”

She pointed to a Virginia law that prohibits engaging “in picketing before or about the residence or dwelling place of any individual, or who shall assemble with another person or persons in a manner which disrupts or threatens to disrupt any individual’s right to tranquility in his home.”

Maryland and Montgomery County have similar anti-picketing laws.

Protestors insist they are exercising their First Amendment rights.

Last month, an armed man was arrested near Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s Maryland home after threatening to kill the justice.

“The County’s stance on this issue is unchanged,” McKay said. “The law cited in the letter is a likely violation of the First Amendment, and a previous court case refused to enforce it. As long as individuals are assembling on public property and not blocking access to private residences, they are permitted to be there,” he said.

Fairfax County police told WTOP in a statement that they are “responsible for maintaining public safety throughout the county, including at the homes of one retired and three sitting justices of the Supreme Court of the United States. FCPD is also tasked with protecting the constitutional rights of our community members, including First Amendment protected speech and the right to peacefully assemble.”

WTOP has asked Elrich and Youngkin for comment.

Shayna Estulin

Shayna Estulin joined WTOP in 2021 as an anchor/reporter covering breaking news in the D.C. region. She has loved radio since she was a child and is thrilled to now be part of Washington’s top radio news station.

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