Republican senators pressed Attorney General Merrick Garland on enforcing a federal law against protests outside Supreme Court justices’ homes.
During a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Wednesday, Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) set a focus on demonstrators carrying signs and shouting slogans outside the residences of justices after the 2022 leak and issuance of the Supreme Court opinion in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case, which determined that abortion is not a constitutional right.
Lee, a former law clerk, said it is “very clear” that protesters are trying to influence jurisprudence in potential violation of 18 U.S. Code § 1507, which prohibits pickets or parades near the house of a judge with the intent of influencing or impeding the administration of justice.
Mike Lee questions Merrick Garland on the political persecution of peaceful pro-life activists – March 1st 2023 pic.twitter.com/V57i1ChLg7
— The NPC Show (@TheNPCShow) March 1, 2023
Garland said he did not know the answer when asked if anyone has been charged under the statute, but stressed that the U.S. Marshals Service, a bureau of the Justice Department, is focused on protecting justices and their families and can make arrests if the situation calls for it.
“As soon as the Dobbs draft leaked I ordered the Marshals to do something that the United States Marshals had never in history done before, which was protect the justices’ homes, residences, and lives 24-7,” he testified.
Garland said 70 U.S. Marshals were assigned to this task, and attributed this deployment to foiling the plans of a man arrested and charged with attempting to murder Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
State and local officials have “similar” authorities, noted Garland, who then said he did not know what, if any, actions they have taken.
Lee appeared unsatisfied with Garland’s answers.
“It is concerning to me when you show up at the home of a public official. You’re sending the message of implicit violence,” Lee said. “You’re sending the message, ‘We know where you sleep.’ ‘We know where you and your family are most vulnerable.'”
During another round of questioning, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) picked back up on the issue of protecting Supreme Court justices. Cruz asked the attorney general point blank if protesting outside the home of a judge intent with the intent of influencing that judge in a pending case is a federal crime. Garland said the answer is “yes.”
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and AG Garland go back and forth over protesters outside SCOTUS justices’ homes.
Cruz: “How did you choose not to enforce this statute?”
Garland: “The marshals on scene …”
Cruz: “Marshals don’t make that decision.”
Garland: “They do make the decision!” pic.twitter.com/FlPLy8etU3
— The Recount (@therecount) March 1, 2023
The exchange turned confrontational as Cruz accused the Justice Department and Garland of inaction as “extremist groups” shared personal information not only about the justices, but also members of their families.
“Your failure to act to protect the safety of the justices and their families was an obvious product of political bias!” Cruz said.
Garland rejected claims of political bias and asserted he did not sit idly by in protecting the justices.