As abortion rights advocates continue to demonstrate outside the homes of conservative Supreme Court justices, the governors of Virginia and Maryland are urging the Justice Department to enforce a federal rule against picketing a judge’s home in order to influence their decision-making.
Governors Larry Hogan of Maryland and Glenn Youngkin of Virginia, who represent the states where some of the justices live, wrote to Attorney General Merrick Garland on Wednesday,
describing the recent protests outside the homes of Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Brett Kavanaugh, Samuel Alito, and Amy Coney Barrett as “markedly different” from those on the Supreme Court steps.
They pointed out that anybody who “pickets or parades” outside a judge’s home “with the goal of influencing” him or her might face a fine of up to a year in jail under federal law.
Hogan and Youngkin warned Garland, “It is in your hands to guarantee that relevant federal law is followed to maintain the integrity of our American justice system and the safety of our citizenry.”
The protests outside the justices’ homes in Maryland and Virginia were triggered by the leak of a draught majority ruling last week, which suggested the high court would overturn Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion statewide in 1973.
The release of the document, which the Supreme Court affirmed was legitimate but was not a final ruling, provoked a barrage of criticism of the GOP-appointed justices and a failed move by the Senate on Wednesday to pass federal legislation protecting abortion rights.
Alito drafted the draught opinion, which was shared among the justices in February. According to Politico, Alito’s opinion is still the only circulated draught of the court in the pending case involving a Mississippi law prohibiting abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy, and none of the conservative justices who initially sided with him — Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Barrett — have changed their votes.
Alito labeled Roe “egregiously erroneous” in the draught, and stated that the court would return the power to regulate or prohibit abortion “to the people and their elected representatives.”
According to the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that promotes abortion rights, if the Supreme Court’s final judgment, likely in the coming weeks, knocks down Roe, at least half of the states will significantly restrict abortion access.
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While the Senate took a test vote on the Women’s Health Protection Act on Wednesday, President Biden urged voters to elect large Democratic majorities in both the House and Senate in November’s midterm elections, allowing Congress to pass and send the law to his desk.
Mr. Biden also cautioned that, if completed as the court’s judgment, the draught opinion would go far beyond the right to an abortion, jeopardizing previous verdicts on same-sex marriage and contraceptive access.
“You’re going to see these decisions up for grabs and further divide the United States,” he warned at a Democratic National Committee event on Wednesday night. “We’re going to fight over things we shouldn’t have to fight about.”
The draft’s release was extraordinary from an institution that, unlike others in Washington, keeps its secrets close to its chest. The disclosure was described by Roberts as a “betrayal of the court’s confidences,” and he ordered the court marshal to investigate the source of the leak.
In reaction to the draught judgment, Garland instructed the US Marshals Service to offer enhanced support to guarantee the safety of justices. State and local law enforcement have warned of a “very sensitive and politically inflamed” dangerous environment.
The court’s nine members will convene behind closed doors for the first time since the draught was leaked on Thursday.