Congress approves heightened security for Supreme Court justices

Politics

WASHINGTON (NewsNation) — The House of Representatives gave final congressional approval on Tuesday to a bill that would bolster Supreme Court security in light of threats made against justices ahead of their anticipated ruling curtailing abortion rights.

The bill passed 396-27 with 27 Democrats voting no. The bill is now headed to the desk of President Joe Biden for signing. The Senate approved the legislation last month.

The vote comes just a week after an incident at Kavanaugh’s suburban Washington home, where authorities said a man armed with a gun and knife threatened to kill the justice. The incident reflects a heightened level of potential danger not just for members of the nation’s highest court, but all judges.

House Democrats lamented the bill did not include protections for other staffers at the Supreme Court, such as clerks for the justices.

“Democrats want to also protect employees and families who are getting threats from right wing activists,” said Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif. He voted yes.

Kavanaugh’s would-be attacker is Nicholas John Roske, 26, of Simi Valley, California, authorities said in charging him with the attempted murder of a justice. Clad in black, he arrived outside Kavanaugh’s Maryland home around 1 a.m. Wednesday after driving all the way from California to Washington.

Police arrested the 26-year-old outside Kavanaugh’s home after he called 911 on himself — saying he was having suicidal thoughts and also planned to kill Kavanaugh, according to court documents. When police searched a backpack and suitcase he was carrying, they said they found a Glock 17 pistol, ammunition, a knife, zip ties, duct tape and other items Roske said he was going to use in the break-in. He said he bought the gun to kill Kavanaugh.

Roske said he was upset about the Supreme Court potentially overturning Roe v. Wade and by the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, and believed Kavanaugh would vote to loosen gun control laws, according to documents filed in federal court in Maryland.

After the arrest, Attorney General Merrick Garland said the Justice Department will hold Roske, and anyone who makes threats, accountable.

“This kind of behavior that we will not tolerate,” Garland said last week. “Threats and acts of violence against justices, of course, strike at the core of our democracy and we will do everything we can to prevent them and hold people accountable.”

The court allocates funds for justice protection through its Supreme Court Police, who protect justices and employees in court.

The U.S. Marshals Service’s Security Division also is responsible for the high court judges’ security outside the building. At the judges’ homes, that security is 24/7.

The threat against Kavanaugh happened amid recent threats and protests outside some justices’ homes as the nation awaits upcoming decisions about the future of Roe v. Wade.

“We know that that heightened level of scrutiny toward the court is going to put them under more intense pressure,” Gabe Roth, who runs Fix the Court, a nonpartisan Supreme Court watchdog group, said.

Extending protection to the justices’ families could cost millions, he said.

This is not the first time a justice has been threatened. A man armed with a machete once broke into Stephen Breyer’s vacation home in the Caribbean and took $1,000. Ruth Bader Ginsburg had her purse snatched on a Washington street. David Souter was assaulted by several men while he was jogging.

Beyond the nation’s highest court, other judges have faced violence. Earlier this month, Wisconsin authorities said Douglas Uhde, 56, shot John Roemer, a former county judge, in a targeted attack against a judge who had once sentenced him to prison. Roemer was found zip-tied to a chair. Uhde had shot himself and later died.

In July 2020, lawyer Roy Den Hollander showed up at Judge Esther Salas’ home posing as a FedEx delivery person. Den Hollander fatally shot Salas’ 20-year-old son, Daniel Anderl, and wounded her husband, Mark Anderl. The judge was in another part of the home at the time and was not injured.

A separate bill, named in memory of Salas’ son, would provide more privacy and protections for all federal judges, including scrubbing personal information from the internet, to deal with mounting cyberthreats. The U.S. Marshals Service, which protects about 2,700 federal judges and thousands more prosecutors and court officials, said there were 4,511 threats and inappropriate communications in 2021, compared with 926 such incidents in 2015.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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