The Justice Department hasn’t ensured peace at the homes of the Justices.
by The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board, June 24, 2022
Protests erupted Friday in Washington after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, and bigger disruptions are possible. Yet so far the Justice Department has refused to enforce federal law to keep the peace at the personal homes of the Justices. That’s despite a request by Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin and Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan.
“Hundreds of demonstrators have recently chosen to picket Supreme Court Justices at their homes in Virginia and Maryland,” the two Governors wrote last month to Attorney General Merrick Garland. As they pointed out, there’s a law that prohibits attempting to influence federal judges by picketing “near a building or residence occupied or used by such judge.” Violations are punishable by a year in prison.
“It seems clear this federal code is applicable,” the Governors wrote, given the leak of Justice Samuel Alito’s draft opinion on Roe v. Wade. The protesters were trying to influence the final ruling. Messrs. Youngkin and Hogan cited comments such as: “If you take away our choices, we will riot.” They asked Mr. Garland to “ensure these residential areas are secure” and to “enforce the law as it is written.”
We’ve obtained the Justice Department’s reply, which is about as responsive as a wet blanket. “Your letter,” it says, “suggests that some individuals may have violated federal criminal law. We appreciate having the benefit of your views on this matter. Longstanding policy and practice of the Department prevent us from discussing this information with you further or confirming or denying the initiation or existence of any investigation.”
The letter is signed by Peter Hyun, acting assistant attorney general. It is stamped June 8, which happens to be the day that a man was arrested outside Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s home with a gun and burglary tools. He told investigators he was angry about the Supreme Court’s abortion and gun jurisprudence and had flown from California intending to assassinate the Justice.
The presence of U.S. deputy marshals seems to have deterred that plot. “The U.S. Marshals Service has been providing around-the-clock security at the homes of all Justices among other actions,” the Justice Department wrote to Messrs. Youngkin and Hogan. Mr. Hyun promised further “efforts to enhance coordination, intelligence sharing, and technical support as it relates to judicial security.”
These federal resources are welcome. But Mr. Garland could help maintain tranquility by enforcing the law against people who rage outside the Justices’ homes, and especially those who threaten rioting or violence.