RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — The U.S. Supreme Court Marshal has asked Maryland and Virginia officials to enforce laws she says prohibit picketing outside the homes of judges living in the two states.
“For weeks, large groups of protesters chanting slogans, using megaphones and using drums have looted the homes of Justices,” Marshal Gail Curley wrote in Friday letters to Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin and two local elected officials. officials.
Curley wrote that Virginia and Maryland laws and a Montgomery County, Maryland ordinance prohibit pickets from judges’ houses, and she asked officials to order police to enforce these provisions.
Judges’ homes have been the target of protests against abortion rights since May, when a leaked draft opinion suggested the court was about to overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade case, which legalized abortion nationwide.
Protests and threatened activity have “increased since May,” Curley wrote in a letter, and have continued since the court’s ruling quashing Roe v. Wade last week.
“Earlier this week, for example, 75 protesters pecked loudly at one Justice’s home in Montgomery County for 20-30 minutes in the evening, then went on strike for 30 minutes at another Justice’s home, where the crowd grew to 100, and eventually returned to the first judge’s house to pick up another 20 minutes,” Curley wrote in her letter to Montgomery County executive director Marc Elrich. “This is exactly the kind of behavior that Maryland and Montgomery County laws prohibit.”
In her letter to Jeffrey McKay, chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, she said that at a recent protest outside the home of an unnamed prosecutor, dozens of people shouted, “No privacy for us, no peace for you!”
Curley’s letters were dated Friday and shared with reporters on Saturday by a Supreme Court spokesperson.
Curley’s request came about a month after a California man was found with a gun, knife and pepper spray near Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s Maryland home after telling police he planned to kill the judge. The man, Nicholas John Roske, 26, of Simi Valley, California, has been charged with the attempted murder of a United States judge and has pleaded not guilty.
Youngkin and Hogan, both Republicans, have both previously expressed concerns about the protests. In May they sent a joint letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland asking for federal law enforcement resources to keep the judges safe and enforce a federal law they say prohibits pickets with intent to influence a judge.
The court’s direct request puts it at odds with the Justice Department, which, while providing US marshals, has taken no steps to limit the protests as long as they are peaceful.
Hogan spokesman Michael Ricci said in a statement Saturday that the governor had instructed state police to “further review enforcement options that respect the First Amendment and the Constitution.” He also said that “if the Marshal had taken the time to investigate the matter,” she would have been informed that the constitutionality of the Maryland statute she cited has been questioned by the State Attorney’s Office.
Elrich said he had no recording of the letter addressed to him and wondered why it had been released to the press. He said he would review it and was willing to discuss it with Curley, but defended the work the Montgomery County Police Department has done so far.
“In Montgomery County, we follow the law that provides security and respects the First Amendment rights of protesters. That’s what we do, regardless of the subject of the protests,” he said.
Youngkin spokesman Christian Martinez said the governor of Virginia welcomed the Marshal’s request and said Youngkin had made the same request to McKay in recent weeks.
“The governor is in regular contact with the judges themselves and makes their safety a top priority. He is in contact with state and local officials about the Marshal’s request for assistance and will continue to address the issue of the security of justice,” Martinez said.
Youngkin pushed for a security perimeter around the homes of judges living in Fairfax County in May, but McKay turned down that request, saying it would violate First Amendment protest rights.
McKay said on Saturday the county’s stance on the issue was “unchanged.”
“The law cited in the letter is likely a violation of the First Amendment and a previous lawsuit refused to enforce it. As long as individuals gather on public land and don’t block access to private homes, they can be there,” he said.