Supreme Court Marshal asks Hogan and Youngkin to stop home protests
In four separate letters to Maryland Governor Larry Hogan (R), Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich (D), Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin (R) and Chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, Jeffrey McKay (D), to Supreme Court Marshal Gail Curley said protests and “threatening” activity had increased since May at the justices’ home.
“For weeks, large groups of protesters chanting slogans, using megaphones and beating drums have been picketing the judges’ homes in Maryland,” her letter to Hogan said. “Earlier this week, for example, 75 protesters picketed a judge’s home in Maryland for 20-30 minutes in the evening, then picketed another judge’s home for 30 minutes, where the crowd grew to 100, and eventually returned to the judge’s first home to picket for another 20 minutes. This is exactly the kind of conduct the laws of Maryland and Montgomery County prohibit.
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The Marshal cited Maryland law, which states that a “no one may intentionally assemble with another in a manner that disturbs a person’s right to peace in his or her home” and that the law “provides for imprisonment of up to 90 days or a fine of $100.”
The Maryland letters, reviewed by The Washington Post and dated July 1, also cite a Montgomery County law that states that “a person or group of persons shall not picket in front of or adjacent to any residence privacy,” as well as a law that says a group can march through a residential area “without stopping at a particular private residence.”
Michael Ricci, Hogan’s communications director, pushed Curley back in a reply Saturday afternoon on Twitter. “Had the Marshal taken the time to explore the matter, she would have learned that the constitutionality of the law cited in her letter has been challenged by the Maryland Attorney General’s office,” he wrote.
Ricci noted that Hogan and Youngkin had previously written to United States Attorney General Merrick Garland “to enforce the clear and unambiguous federal laws in the books that prohibit picketing at judges’ residences.” Garland refused, Ricci said.
“In light of the continued refusal to act by several federal entities, the Governor has directed the Maryland State Police to further investigate enforcement options that respect the First Amendment and the Constitution,” a- he writes.
Elrich, meanwhile, said in a statement that his office “has no record of receiving this letter.”
“This public discussion regarding the safety and security of members of the Supreme Court is counterproductive, and the use of the media only draws more attention to the safety of the homes and quarters of judges,” said- he declared. “Quite frankly, publicly discussing security issues is irresponsible and disappointing behavior.”
Elrich said Montgomery County abides by the law “which provides safety and respects protesters’ First Amendment rights.”
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Nadine Seiler, a resident of Maryland, was among 75 protesters mentioned in the Marshal’s letter to Hogan, after demonstrating Wednesday outside the homes of Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Kavanaugh. She said the protest groups that come out each week are normally as small as 15 people, but this week’s crowds have swelled due to the court’s overturning of abortion protections under Roe vs. Wade.
Police have been handing out protest law materials, and to uphold them, protesters are marching in single file down a sidewalk without stopping in front of a specific house, Seiler said.
“We are legal,” she said. “They’re proving us right — that we have to be there to maintain our First Amendment right, or we wouldn’t have it.”
The letters to Youngkin and McKay were made public by the court on Saturday.
Christian Martinez, a spokesperson for Youngkin, said in a statement that Youngkin “agrees with the marshal that threatening activity outside the judges’ homes has increased” and that the governor is in regular contact with the judges.
The statement said the governor directed President McKay of Fairfax “to enforce state law as they are the primary enforcement authority” of the law. He also said Garland should “do her job” enforcing federal law.
“All federal law enforcement resources, including the U.S. Marshalls, should be involved as judges continue to be denied the right to live peacefully in their homes,” Martinez said.
In a statement, the Fairfax County Police Department said its Civil Disturbance Unit is “trained to assist crowds who gather to express their opinions and are familiar with the laws that govern such planned gatherings.” The county is home to one retired judge and three sitting judges, police said.
Spokespersons for Garland and McKay did not immediately respond to request for comment Saturday night.
Abortion rights advocates initially took to the streets outside judges’ homes after the Supreme Court’s draft notice signaling it planned to strike down Roe vs. Wade was leaked to Politico in May. Protesters continued to gather outside homes in June when the 49-year-old ruling that guaranteed a person’s constitutional right to an abortion was officially overturned.
Following the publication of the leaked draft, but before the court issued its opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a California man was arrested near Kavanaugh’s Chevy Chase home and charged with attempting to kill a judge. Nicholas Roske is accused of flying to Maryland with a gun and burglary tools with the intention of breaking into Kavanaugh’s home to kill him. He pleaded not guilty.
“The laws of Maryland and Montgomery County provide the tools to prevent picketing activity in judges’ homes, and they must be enforced without delay,” said one of the letters from Curley, who is also leading the investigation into the leak from Politico.
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Ongoing protests outside judges’ homes have sparked a legal debate over whether laws banning picketing outside judges’ private homes are constitutional.
“The Montgomery County Police Department is committed to upholding the First Amendment rights of all individuals wishing to participate in peaceful and lawful protests and assemblies,” the department’s website reads. It also links to a list of protest laws “to help educate the community,” including those cited in the Supreme Court Marshal’s letters.
“Peaceful and lawful protests and assemblies are the cornerstone of our democracy,” the online document bed.
In the letter to Elrich, Curley said a request was made in May to the county police department regarding enforcement of the Montgomery County ordinance. Elrich said he spoke with Montgomery County Police Chief Marcus Jones, who “was not aware of any requests for additional security assistance.”
A group of no more than 20 marched on the sidewalk outside Kavanaugh’s home on Saturday afternoon while reading the First Amendment in unison, some beating makeshift drums and holding abortion rights signs . About 20 law enforcement officers lined the lawn in front of the judge’s house, staring straight ahead.
“Congress shall make no law … restricting freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people to assemble peacefully,” the group read aloud.
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Michelle Peterson, organizer of Our Rights DC, said the group organized the protest in direct response to the Marshal’s letters. The protests are meant to give community members an opportunity “to voice our grievances directly,” said co-organizer Sadie Kuhns.
“It’s up to us to express what they do to us,” Kuhns said. Protesters chanted “Our rights are not up for debate” and “No privacy for us, no peace for you”.
Some houses had signs that read “Chevy Chasers for choice” and a neighbor passing by the group nodded to them and said, “Keep it up.” But after about 30 minutes of marching, chanting and reading the First Amendment, protesters outside Kavanaugh’s home decided there was only one thing left to do: dance.
From a loudspeaker, the band went home to the lyrics of Aretha Franklin’s “Respect.”