On June 14, 2022, after much delay, the House of Representatives passed S. 4160, a bill to provide round-the-clock police protection for Supreme Court justices and their families. The bill, introduced by Senators Cornyn (R-TX) and Chris Coons (D- DE), passed the Senate by unanimous consent a month earlier.
Quickly signed by the President two days later (Pub.L. 117-148), the new law extends Supreme Court police protection to “any member of the immediate family of the Chief Justice, any Associate Justice, or any officer of the Supreme Court if the Marshal determines such protection is necessary,’’ thereby providing protection similar to that already afforded high ranking officials in the executive and legislative branches. House Democrats delayed passage of the bill because they wanted to extend protections to the families of law clerks and other Court employees, but they were unsuccessful.
The Supreme Court Marshal and the Supreme Court police are responsible for the security of the Court, with the U.S. Marshals Service providing assistance as needed. Attorney General Merrick Garland ordered the U.S. Marshals to provide round-the-clock protection to the justices following the May leak of a draft Supreme Court decision that would overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark abortion rights case decided 50 years ago.
In the month after that leak, two additional high-profile attacks on judges occurred. On June 8, an armed man who said he wanted to kill U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh was arrested outside the Justice’s Maryland home and charged with attempted murder. Five days earlier, retired Wisconsin Judge John Roemer was shot to death in his home by a man whom he had sentenced to prison over a decade ago. In both cases, the perpetrators obtained the addresses of their targets on the internet.
During deliberations over the Supreme Court bill, some members of Congress had hoped to pair the bill with the bipartisan Daniel Anderl Judicial Security and Privacy Act (H.R. 4436 and S. 2340), introduced after the brutal murder of the son of a New Jersey federal judge by a disgruntled attorney who obtained the judge’s home address on the internet.
The ABA-supported legislation would provide all federal judges with enhanced security by restricting online access to judges’ personally identifiable information, such as home addresses and car licenses; authorize funding for state and local governments to adopt similar measures; and enable the U.S. Marshals Service to hire additional trained personnel to anticipate and deter threats. S. 2340 was reported out of the Senate Judiciary Committee by unanimous vote last December. Despite the encouraging vote, further action has stalled.
On June 17, another attempt was made to advance this broader judicial security bill. Members of the Senate requested unanimous consent to bring the bill to the floor for a final vote, but Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) objected because it lacked additional protections for Members of Congress. In response to these disappointing setbacks, House and Senate sponsors averred that they would continue to pursue other avenues for passage of this critically needed bipartisan legislation this Congress.
To follow legislative developments involving judicial security as they occur, follow us on Twitter @ABAGrassroots.