The head of the Department of Justice on Wednesday directed the U.S. Marshals Service to “help ensure” the safety of Supreme Court justices after the leak of a draft opinion overturning Roe v. Wade stoked fierce outrage from abortion-rights supporters.
The draft, which showed the court poised to strike down the legal protections for abortion that had stood for nearly 50 years, spurred activists to protest at the Supreme Court building — and outside some of the conservative justices’ homes.
Attorney General Merrick Garland “continues to be briefed on security matters related to the Supreme Court and Supreme Court Justices,” the Justice Department said in a statement.
Garland, himself a former Supreme Court nominee, “directed the U.S. Marshals Service to help ensure the Justices’ safety by providing additional support to the Marshal of the Supreme Court and Supreme Court Police,” the DOJ said.
Chief Justice John Roberts had ordered the marshal of the high court to investigate the virtually unprecedented leak. Roberts noted that the first draft, penned by conservative Justice Samuel Alito and reportedly circulated in February, does not represent a final decision in the case.
“To the extent this betrayal of the confidences of the Court was intended to undermine the integrity of our operations, it will not succeed,” the chief justice said in a statement. “The work of the Court will not be affected in any way.”
The leak has prompted breathless speculation about the politicization of the high court, where the conservative justices hold a 6-3 majority following the appointment of three of former President Donald Trump’s nominees. Critics and some legal experts warn that the legal reasoning from Alito’s draft could be used to reverse other rights, such as same-sex marriage.
Protesters gathered at the Supreme Court building, where barricades and fencing were set up to keep the crowds at bay.
Some have also shown up at Alito’s home in Virginia, as well as the Maryland homes of Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Conservatives and right-leaning media decried those demonstrations, accusing the protesters of trying to intimidate the justices.
But others have defended the protesters who went to the justices’ homes. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., asked Tuesday if he was comfortable with the trend, said, “If the protests are peaceful, yes.”
“My house, there’s protests three, four times a week outside my house. That’s — the American way to peacefully protest is OK,” Schumer said. “So as long as they are peaceful, that’s OK with me.”
On Monday, the Senate passed a bipartisan bill that would extend security protections to the justices’ immediate family members.
A final opinion in the abortion case is expected to come out close to the end of the court’s term in late June or early July. The nine justices are scheduled to gather Thursday for their first private meeting since Alito’s draft leaked.