Virginia and Maryland governors demand that Garland ban protest outside justices' homes

Virginia and Maryland governors demand that Garland ban protest outside justices' homes
Glenn Youngkin, image via Wikimedia Commons.

The Republican governors of Maryland and Virginia are calling on Attorney General Merrick Garland to ban protests outside the homes of Supreme Court justices living in those states. Maryland’s Larry Hogan and Virginia’s Glenn Youngkin cited a 1950 law criminalizing protests at courthouses or other places occupied by judges carried out “with the intent of influencing any judge.”

Protesters told The Washington Post they weren’t there to influence the justices, they were there to speak out against a decision that has, as Justice Samuel Alito’s draft opinion shows, already been made. “There’s no changing their minds. We’re expressing our fury, our rage,” said one.

“I don’t think a bunch of neighbors walking by with candles is going to change Kavanaugh’s mind—or endanger him,” said another, Lynn Kanter, who had carried a sign the five blocks from her house to Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s to join a protest.

Kanter also noted the obvious divide in who is permitted privacy, according to Republicans, and who is not, saying, “It’s absolutely hypocritical, because the Supreme Court wants to have domain over women’s uteruses and yet the sidewalk in front of their homes is somehow sacred ground.”

Youngkin actually tried to make Alito’s entire neighborhood sacred, or at least heavily restricted, ground. He asked local authorities to set up a perimeter around the area, limiting who could enter, and offered the state police to help. Fairfax County officials essentially told him to shove it.

“Your suggestion to establish a ‘perimeter’ for the purpose of ‘limiting unauthorized vehicle and pedestrian access’ to neighborhoods surrounding the homes of the Justices is paramount to a checkpoint that federal courts have held violates the Fourth Amendment. There are obvious First Amendment concerns as well,” replied the chair of the county board of supervisors, while adding that the police would of course respond to situations as needed “to protect public safety,” and “without consideration of politics or the opinions expressed by any group demonstrating in the County.”

People going into clinics for legal medical care are routinely harassed and threatened by anti-abortion protesters. Abortion providers live under constant threat. But a few candlelight vigils and peaceful protests directed at Supreme Court justices who hold power over the lives of everyone in this country and we’re supposed to be shocked and deeply concerned.

The Supreme Court has never been as insulated from politics as its defenders would have us believe, but now? The Supreme Court of Kavanaugh and Alito and Barrett? Of Clarence Thomas and his insurrectionist wife? A Supreme Court with five justices nominated by men who got into the White House after losing the popular vote? Spare me the pieties about the sanctity of the institution. The justices should receive reasonable protection from credible threats, as should any other member of government (on down to the school board members whose harassment Youngkin has essentially encouraged), but they are not impartial sages set apart from the tawdry partisan concerns of us mere mortals.

These are people who lied to the Senate in their confirmation hearings about their intentions on Roe v. Wade—not that senators plausibly believed those lies—and turned around and voted to strike it down as soon as they could, overturning 50 years of precedent. Some of them are reportedly holding a decade-old grudge against Chief Justice John Roberts for upholding most of the Affordable Care Act. Two of them were confirmed despite credible accusations of sexual misconduct, and now they’re votes to deny women bodily autonomy. These are political actors who were put on the court through an overwhelmingly politicized process and are now making policy from the bench in accord with their partisan views. They can take the heat of the First Amendment.

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