DOJ Sued for Refusing to Explain Why It Won’t Protect Conservative Supreme Court Justices' Homes From Protests

DOJ Sued for Refusing to Explain Why It Won’t Protect Conservative Supreme Court Justices' Homes From Protests
U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland speaks in Washington on Sept. 20, 2022. (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)
Matthew Vadum

A conservative group is suing the U.S. Department of Justice for refusing to explain why it won't enforce a federal law forbidding what the group called “the recent intimidatory protests carried out by radical abortion supporters” outside the homes of conservative Supreme Court justices in connection with the reversal of Roe v. Wade earlier this year.

Raucous protests began at the homes of the six right-leaning justices in Maryland and Virginia in the wake of the unprecedented May 2 leak of a draft opinion foreshadowing the court’s June 24 decision to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade abortion precedent, and escalated after the ruling itself was issued.

Nicholas John Roske was arrested on June 8 for his alleged plan to assassinate Justice Brett Kavanaugh at his Maryland home. Roske reportedly said he wanted to kill Kavanaugh to prevent him from voting to overturn abortion rights and gun control laws.

Section 1507 of Title 18 of the U.S. Code makes it unlawful to picket or parade at or near a residence of a judge with the intent of “influencing any judge ... in the discharge of his duty.” Violators face up to a year in prison, a fine, or both. The section has been challenged in previous legal proceedings but has survived constitutional scrutiny.

The case, Heritage Foundation v. Department of Justice, court file 22-cv-3102, was filed on Oct. 12 in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

The Heritage Foundation’s Oversight Project filed suit, claiming the DOJ has refused to provide documents requested under the Freedom of Information Act explaining why it won't enforce Section 1507. Heritage said its demands for records from various DOJ offices, including the Office of the Attorney General, Office of Legal Counsel, the FBI, and the U.S. Marshals Service weren't complied with.

“The Biden DOJ’s silence on these radical protests and obviously intimidating tactics was, and remains to be, deafening,” Roman Jankowski, senior investigative counsel for the Oversight Project, said in a statement.

“The American people deserve to know why Joe Biden and Attorney General Merrick Garland not only refused to publicly and unequivocally condemn this behavior, but also why they continue not to prosecute or hold accountable those who facially broke the law in an attempt to influence the proceedings of the Supreme Court. We think there are answers to those questions in the documents we have requested, and we have a right by law to those documents.”

On May 10, then-White House press secretary Jen Psaki refused to condemn the protests while insisting that the president supports “peaceful protest.”
Supreme Court Marshal Gail Curley, who is responsible for court security, wrote letters to Maryland officials on July 1 demanding they do more to protect justices whose lives have been threatened, as The Epoch Times previously reported. Curley urged officials to have the Maryland State Police enforce state law, citing 3-904(c) of the Maryland Criminal Code, which provides a person “may not intentionally assemble with another in a manner that disrupts a person’s right to tranquility in the person’s home.”

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, and Montgomery County, Maryland, Executive Marc Elrich, a Democrat, sharply rebuked Curley, saying it's the federal government’s job to protect the justices.

Hogan’s press secretary, Michael Ricci, replied to Curley on Twitter, accusing her of being misinformed and of providing “conflicting information.”

Ricci tweeted, “Had the marshal taken time to explore the matter, she would have learned that the constitutionality of the statute cited in her letter has been questioned by the Maryland Attorney General’s Office.”

But when pressed repeatedly, the office of state Attorney General Brian Frosh, a Democrat who isn't seeking reelection in next month’s elections, has refused to confirm that it holds the view that the Maryland criminal law is unconstitutional.

“Honestly, I am not familiar with the issue Ricci has noted. I will have to check,” an unidentified Frosh aide told The Epoch Times by email on July 3.

The Epoch Times has reached out repeatedly to the official since then, but hasn't received a reply.

Meanwhile, on June 16, President Joe Biden signed the Supreme Court Police Parity Act into law. The measure gives Supreme Court officials, including Curley’s office, greater authority to protect the court, members of the justices’ immediate families, and other court employees.

Officials at the Department of Justice and the Supreme Court’s Public Information Office didn't respond by press time to a request by The Epoch Times for comment on the new lawsuit.