Attorney General Merrick Garland has ordered the U.S. Marshals Service to protect the safety of Supreme Court justices as protesters have staged demonstrations outside some of their homes in response to a leaked high court draft opinion to overturn federal abortion protections.
Justice Department spokesman Anthony Coley made the announced in a statement Wednesday amid calls from some politicians for authorities to do more to protect Supreme Court justices and their families amid heightened political environment.
“Attorney General Garland continues to be briefed on security related to the Supermen Court and Supreme Court justices,” Coley said. “The Attorney General directed the U.S. Marshals Service to help ensure the justices’ safety by providing additional support to the Marshal of the Supreme Court and Supreme Court Police.”
The announcement was made ahead of a planned protest by Ruth Sent Us outside the Virginia and Maryland homes of six conservative Supreme Court Justices Brett Kavanaugh, Amy Coney Barrett, Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas and John Roberts.
Protests have been staged outside some of their houses since a high court draft opinion to strike down the landmark Roe vs. Wade ruling that protected a woman’s ability to have an abortion was leaked to the press early this month, sparking anger among Democrats and women’s rights advocates.
The protests have raised concern about the safety of those who sit on the high bench, with Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin calling on Garland in a letter Wednesday to do more to ensure the justices’ protection, arguing that the protests were unlawful.
“It is in your hands to ensure that the applicable federal law is enforced to preserve the integrity of our American judicial system and the safety of our citizens,” the governors wrote.
“While we are willing to assist in the event the need for increased security measures becomes imminent, federal law enforcement entities must take the lead and provide sustained resources to protect the justices and ensure these residential areas are secure in the weeks and months ahead.”
Youngkin on Wednesday also sent a letter to Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay requesting that the county police department create an “expanded security perimeter” around the homes of three Supreme Court justices who live within its border.
McKay promptly rejected the request, saying in a letter of his own that the perimeter presented First Amendment “concerns.”
Youngkin told McKay that the Virginia State Police have offered and remain ready to provide the county with law enforcement resources to ensure the perimeter, which would bar entrance to unauthorized vehicles and pedestrians, was established prior to the Wednesday protests.
“We believe for the safety of the justices and their families, their neighbors and the law enforcement heroes dedicated to preserving peace and order in our communities, that an expanded security perimeter should be established,” Youngkin wrote, adding that he also believes “such demonstrations and picketing should not be allowed at the justices’ homes as they are meant to intimidate and influence the justices, not to mention, scaring their families and small children.”
McKay responded in his own letter by saying the Fairfax Police Department is dedicated to ensuring the safety of all and that its officers will enforce laws to protect persons and property.
He added on top of the First Amendment issues the perimeter would present, it would also essentially function as a checkpoint, which have been found to violated the Fourth Amendment.
“We are committed to working within the framework of the U.S. Constitution to ensure the safety of the justices, their families, affected neighborhoods and those gathered to express a variety of viewpoints,” McKay said.
On Monday, lawmakers in the U.S. Senate passed bipartisan legislation to expand security protection to families of Supreme Court justices.
Meanwhile, Chief Justice John Roberts has directed the Marshal of the Court to launch an investigation to find the source behind the leaked draft opinion.
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