By SARAH RANKIN Associated Press
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — The U.S. Supreme Court bailiff is asking officials in Maryland and Virginia to enforce laws she says prohibit picketing outside the homes of judges who live in the two states.
“For weeks, large groups of protesters chanting, using megaphones and banging on drums have picketed judges’ homes,” Marshal Gail Curley wrote in Friday letters to Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin and two local elected officials. officials
Curley wrote that Virginia and Maryland laws and an ordinance in Montgomery County, Maryland prohibit picketing judges’ homes, and asked officials to order police to enforce those provisions.
Justices’ homes have been the subject of abortion rights protests since May, when a leaked draft opinion suggested the court was poised to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade in 1973 that legalized abortion throughout the country.
Protests and threatening activities have “increased since May,” Curley wrote in a letter, and have continued since the court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade.
“Earlier this week, for example, 75 protesters loudly protested at a judge’s home in Montgomery County for 20-30 minutes at night, then proceeded to protest at another judge’s home for 30 minutes, where the crowd grew to 100 and finally came back. to the first judge’s house to protest for another 20 minutes,” Curley wrote in his letter to Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich. “This is exactly the type of conduct that Maryland and Montgomery County law prohibit.”
In his letter to Jeffrey McKay, chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, he said a recent protest outside an unspecified judge’s home involved dozens of people chanting “No privacy for us, no peace for us.” for you!”
Curley’s letters were dated Friday, and a Supreme Court spokesman shared them with reporters on Saturday.
Curley’s request came about a month after a California man was found with a gun, knife and pepper spray near the Maryland home of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh after telling police he planned to kill to the judge. The man, Nicholas John Roske, 26, of Simi Valley, California, was charged with attempting to assassinate a United States judge and has pleaded not guilty.
Youngkin and Hogan, both Republicans, have previously raised concerns about the protests. In May, they sent a joint letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland requesting federal law enforcement resources to keep judges safe and enforce a federal law they said prohibits picketing with the intent to influence a judge.
The court’s direct request puts him at odds with the Justice Department, which, while providing US marshals, has taken no steps to limit protests as long as they are peaceful.
Hogan’s spokesman, Michael Ricci, said in a statement Saturday that the governor had directed state police to “further review enforcement options that respect the First Amendment and the Constitution.” He also said that “had the sheriff taken the time to explore the matter,” he would have learned that the state Attorney General’s Office challenged the constitutionality of the Maryland statute she cited.
Elrich said he had no record of receiving the letter addressed to him and asked why it was released to the press. He said he would review it and that he was willing to discuss it with Curley, but he defended the work Montgomery County police have done so far.
“In Montgomery County we are following the law that provides safety and respects the First Amendment rights of protesters. That is what we do, regardless of the subject of the protests,” he said.
Youngkin’s spokesman, Christian Martinez, said the Virginia governor welcomed the sheriff’s request and said Youngkin had made the same request to McKay in recent weeks.
“The Governor remains in regular contact with the judges themselves and considers their safety a top priority. He is in contact with state and local officials regarding the sheriff’s request for assistance and will continue to be involved on the issue of judge safety,” Martinez said.
Youngkin in May pushed for a security perimeter around the homes of judges who live in Fairfax County, but McKay rejected that request, saying it would infringe on First Amendment rights to protest. Youngkin also attempted to create a new felony penalty for certain actions during demonstrations directed at judges or other court officials, which state lawmakers rejected.
A McKay spokesman said he was working on a response to the letter.
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