Supreme Court Marshal wants to crack down on picket lines, protests outside judges’ homes

The U.S. Supreme Court Marshal has asked Maryland and Virginia officials to step up enforcement of laws she says prohibit pickets outside the homes of judges living in the two states.

“For weeks, large groups of protesters have been chanting slogans, using megaphones, and beating drums into judges’ houses,” 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’ houses have been the target of protests since May, when a leaked draft opinion suggested the court was about to overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade case that legalized abortion nationwide.

The protests and threatening activities have “increased since May,” Curley wrote in a letter and continued since the court ruling overthrowing Roe v. Wade was issued last week.

Abortion rights activists protest outside judges' homes
Law enforcement officers stand guard as abortion rights activists march outside the home of Supreme Court Brett Kavanaugh on June 29, 2022 in Chevy Chase, Maryland.

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“Earlier this week, for example, 75 protesters pecked loudly at a Justice’s home in Montgomery County for 20-30 minutes in the evening, then 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 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 request came about a month after a man from California 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.

Youngkin and Hogan, both Republicans, have each 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.

“A month later, hours after an assassination attempt on Judge Kavanaugh, the Justice Department finally responded (to our letter) and refused to enforce the laws,” Hogan spokesman Michael Ricci wrote in a statement on Saturday.

“Now another federal official is writing to us with conflicting information,” Ricci said.

Ricci said the governor has 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 learned that the constitutionality of the Maryland statute she cited was being questioned by the state’s attorney general.

In a lengthy statement provided to CBS News on Saturday, Elrich called the marshal’s request “disturbing.” Elrich said if Curley is concerned about safety, she should communicate it directly to Montgomery County officials, not through the media.

“In Montgomery County, we follow the law that provides security and respects the rights of the first amendment protesters,” Elrich wrote. “That’s what we do, regardless of the subject of the protests.”

Christian Martin, a spokesperson for Youngkin, said he “welcomes the Supreme Court Marshal’s request to Fairfax County to enforce state law.”

“The US Attorney General should be doing his job by enforcing the much more robust federal law,” Martin wrote.

A spokesperson for McKay did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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. Youngkin also tried to introduce a new felony sentence for certain actions during demonstrations against judges or other officers of a court, which state lawmakers rejected.

Curley’s letters were dated Friday and shared with reporters on Saturday by a Supreme Court spokesperson.