WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) and a group of Republican senators wrote to Attorney General Merrick Garland emphasizing the Justice Department’s responsibility to prosecute those who criminally protested in front of the homes of Supreme Court justices.
The senators noted that Title 18, Section 1507 of the U.S. Code is an act of Congress that criminalizes parading or picketing in front of the homes of judges with the intent to influence pending litigation. The senators emphasized the importance of judicial independence and keeping Supreme Court deliberations free from influence outside the courtroom – including, but not limited to, harassment and intimidation outside of their homes.
“The responsibility of a judge-or justice-is to follow and apply the law according to his or her judgment,” wrote the senators. “It is not to do so according to the judgment of their community, or the desires of their political party, or the will of the mob. It is only their judgment that counts. This is why they are given life tenure, so that external considerations-such as politics or public opinion-will not influence their constitutional duties. Given these important distinctions it is only fitting that Congress prohibited the parading and picketing of judges' houses in order to influence their decisions. It is a measure that preserves judicial independence.”
The senators referenced last week’s assassination attempt of Justice Brett Kavanaugh as a primary example of the importance of this law. They note that the Washington Post reported that the perpetrator discovered where Justice Kavanaugh lived by watching videos of protests outside his house.
The senators also noted that a number of letters were relayed to the Department of Justice on the subject of judicial security leading up to the assassination attempt. Those letters, including one sent by Graham, were largely left unanswered.
“Somehow, the situation is only escalating,” wrote the senators. “Not only did the illegal picketing resume mere hours after the assassination attempt on Justice Kavanaugh, but reports are that those seeking to intimidate the Justices at their homes plan to expand their campaign of harassment to their children's schools. Enough.”
“We want to know why you aren't prosecuting these Section 1507 violations. We are aware that President Biden has endorsed home protests for Justices, but as you told us repeatedly, your decisions whom to prosecute would not be decided by the White House. Is White House policy keeping you from bringing charges? If not, tell us. Or tell our staff. You can respond by letter or you can schedule a phone call or even a briefing. If there is a good reason why you aren't charging these obvious crimes, explain it to us. We want to understand. The situation is too dire and too important for more meaningless boilerplate about Justice Department policies,” concluded the senators.
The full text of the letter is available here.