Supreme Court marshal asks Hogan, Youngkin to stop home protests

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The Supreme Court’s chief security officer has penned letters requesting that top Maryland and Virginia officials direct police to enforce laws that she says prohibit picketing at the suburban homes of Supreme Court justices, following weeks of demonstrations for abortion rights.

In four separate letters addressed to Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R), to Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich (D), to Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) and to chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeffrey McKay (D), Supreme Court Marshal Gail Curley said protests and “threatening” activity have increased since May at the judges’ homes.

“For weeks on end, large groups of protesters chanting slogans, using bullhorns, and banging drums have picketed Justices’ homes in Maryland,” the letter to Hogan said. “Earlier this week, for example, 75 protesters loudly picketed at one Justice’s home in Maryland for 20-30 minutes in the evening, then proceeded to picket at another Justice’s home for 30 minutes, where the crowd grew to 100, and finally returned to the first Justice’s home to picket for another 20 minutes. This is exactly the kind of conduct that the Maryland and Montgomery County laws prohibit.”

Youngkin, Hogan ask Justice Dept. to halt protests at justices’ homes

The marshal cited Maryland law, which states that a “person may not intentionally assemble with another in a manner that disrupts a person’s right to tranquility in the person’s home” and that law “provides for imprisonment for up to 90 days or a $100 fine.”

The Maryland letters, reviewed by The Washington Post and dated July 1, also cite a Montgomery County law that says a “person or group of persons must not picket in front of or adjacent to any private residence,” as well as a law that says a group can march in a residential area “without stopping at any particular private residence.”

Michael Ricci, Hogan’s director of communications, pushed back against Curley in a response Saturday afternoon on Twitter. “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,” he wrote.

Ricci noted that Hogan and Youngkin had written previously to Attorney General Merrick Garland “to enforce the clear and unambiguous federal statutes on the books that prohibit picketing at judges’ residences.” Garland declined, Ricci said.

“In light of the continued refusal by multiple federal entities to act, the governor has directed Maryland State Police to further review enforcement options that respect the First Amendment and the Constitution,” he wrote.

Outside Kavanaugh’s home, a neighbor rallies for abortion rights

Nadine Seiler, a Maryland resident, was among the 75 protesters referenced in the marshal’s letter to Hogan. She said the protest groups that go out on a weekly basis are normally as small as 15 people, but this week’s crowd swelled because of the court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade. Some neighbors, Seiler said, came out of their homes to join the demonstrations.

Police handed out documentation of the protest laws, and to maintain them, protesters walked in a single-file line up a sidewalk but did not stop in front of any specific home, Seiler said.

Seiler said they do “make noise” but operate within the Maryland noise ordinance before 9 p.m.

“We are within the law,” Seiler said. “They’re proving us right — that we need to be out there to maintain our First Amendment right, or else we wouldn’t have it.”

The letters to Youngkin and McKay were released by the court Saturday.

Abortion rights advocates had originally taken to the streets outside the justices’ houses after the draft of an opinion by the Supreme Court signaling that it planned to overturn Roe v. Wade was leaked to Politico in May. Protesters continued gathering outside the homes again in June when the 49-year-old decision that guarantees a person’s constitutional right to abortion was officially overturned.

Following the release 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 Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh’s home in Chevy Chase and charged with attempting to kill a judge. Nicholas Roske, is accused of flying to Maryland with a gun and burglary tools with plans to break into Kavanaugh’s home to kill him. Prosecutors said he was angry over the leaked draft and the recent school shooting in Uvalde, Tex. Roske has pleaded not guilty.

“Maryland and Montgomery County laws provide the tools to prevent picketing activity at the Justices’ homes, and they should be enforced without delay,” said one of the letters from Curley, who is also leading the investigation into the Politico leak.

The ongoing demonstrations outside of justices’ homes have sparked legal debate over whether laws banning picketing outside of the private homes of judges are constitutional.

It was not immediately clear Friday whether officials or law enforcement had received the marshal’s letter or how they intend to respond to the request.

Maryland State Police, the Montgomery County Police Department, spokespeople for Hogan and Elrich, and the Supreme Court of the United States did not immediately respond to requests for comment about the letter on Friday night.

“The Montgomery County Department of Police is committed to preserving the first amendment rights of all individuals wishing to participate in peaceful, lawful, protest and assembly,” the police department website says on its homepage. It also links to a list of protest laws “to assist in educating the community,” including those cited in the Supreme Court marshal’s letters.

“Peaceful, lawful protest and assembly is a cornerstone of our democracy,” the document on the county police website reads.

Curley’s letters quoted previous comments from Hogan and Elrich regarding protests at justices’ home, including a statement from a Hogan news release saying, “We will continue to partner with both federal and local law enforcement officials to help ensure these residential areas are secure.”

In the letter addressed to Elrich, Curley said a request was made in May to the county police department about enforcing the Montgomery County ordinance.

The letter also quoted a news report in which a Montgomery County official said people “can’t statically protest in front of someone’s house for political reasons” and that protesters are generally told they have to be moving and can’t stay in a single place for an extended period of time. It also quoted a letter published in The Washington Post from the author of the county ordinance urging the county executive and police department to enforce the law.

“It is against the law in Montgomery County to picket at a person’s home for an issue that is about a person’s work,” said the letter, quoting former councilwoman Gail Ewing.

This story will be updated.

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