In-Depth: Sponsoring Rep. Greg Stanton (D-AZ) introduced this bill to permanently extend security for Supreme Court Justices while they’re outside Supreme Court grounds:
“Ensuring the safety of our lawmakers and justices is a nonpartisan issue. Our Supreme Court Justices—who preside over the highest court in our nation—should be afforded the same protections as Senators, members of House leadership and the President.”
Original cosponsor Rep. Greg Steube (R-FL) adds:
“Protecting those who have committed their lives to public service is of the utmost importance. I’m proud to support this legislation that will ensure our Supreme Court Justices receive adequate protection for generations to come.”
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-SC) introduced this bill’s companion in the Senate to provide permanent additional security for U.S. Supreme Court Justices:
“I’m very pleased to be working with Senator Sinema on this necessary legislation to protect the Supreme Court. We live in volatile times and this bill will permanently reauthorize security for the Supreme Court Justices when they travel outside the grounds of the Court. The rule of law is one of the fundamental principles of democracy, and we should do all we can to protect our judicial institutions. I’m certain this bill will become law.”
Fix the Court, a nonpartisan group that advocates accountability and transparency at the Supreme Court, supports this bill:
“If we’ve said it once, we’ve said it a thousand times: you can’t advocate for increased transparency in the judiciary without also supporting greater investment in security for its jurists… Currently, the Supreme Court Police are only authorized to protect the justices domestically, and they’re often hampered by the inconsistencies in the annual budget process. (Remember all those shutdowns?) Permanently renewing security funding for SCOTUS would ensure the justices receive the protection they need. In this time of increased dangers for public officials, our top jurists deserve to know that their security detail will be funded into the future.”
This legislation unanimously passed the House Judiciary Committee with the support of two bipartisan House cosponsors, one from each party. Its Senate companion, sponsored by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), passed the Senate Judiciary Committee with the support of one Senate cosponsor, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ).
Of Note: Fix the Court (FTC) reports that Supreme Court justices only get security protection during domestic trips outside the Washington metropolitan area when they request it, and aren’t required to have security coverage while traveling. Given the rise in threats against public officials in recent years, FTC argues that this policy “may no longer be wise, if it ever was.”
Gabe Roth, Fix the Court’s executive director, says the lack of comprehensive security protocols for justices (the current security policy is just over a page long) is concerning given potential threats and several aging justices’ “fading health.”
According to records obtained by a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit by FTC, Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor might have faced threats on trips to New York and Massachusetts for which they did request marshals’ protection.
The Supreme Court Police, one of the smallest federal agencies, is responsible for providing the Supreme Court’s protection. The force has about 125 officers, and is led by the Marshal of the United States Supreme Court (no relation to the U.S. Marshals Service). The Supreme Court Police handles protection for the justices in Washington and coordinates security when they travel abroad, and the Marshals Service, which is part of the Justice Department, picks up the security for domestic travel and is reimbursed by the Supreme Court.
To date, Congress has renewed the Supreme Court Police’s authority to offer off-grounds protections to the Supreme Court Justices nine times. Most recently, Congress passed a six-year reauthorization in 2013. This current authority will expire on December 29, 2019.
Summary by Lorelei Yang(Photo Credit: Supreme Court of the United States - Roberts Court 2018.jpg via Wikimedia Commons)