By Bethany Blankley [The Center Square contributor] –
Twenty-five state attorneys general, led by Alabama AG Steve Marshall, are calling on U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland to enforce a federal law that prohibits anyone from targeting judges’ homes. The group includes Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery III.
In a letter sent to Garland Wednesday, they wrote that federal law prohibits picketers and protestors from targeting judges’ homes, including the homes of Supreme Court justices, “with the intent of interfering with, obstructing, or impeding the administration of justice.”
“We the undersigned Attorneys General act daily to uphold the rule of law,” they wrote to Garland. “These remarkable recent events provide you an opportunity to do the same.”
After a Supreme Court raft opinion was leaked last week indicating the majority of justices were overturning the landmark abortion case, Roe v Wade, abortion activists published the addresses of the majority of the justices’ homes and organized protests outside of them. Some also posted threats of violence against them on social media platforms.
As law scholar James Hirsen said, “interference with the administration of justice in the manner in which it has recently been occurring is illegal,” pointing to federal statute 18 U.S.C. 1507. Penalty for violating the law results in a fine and/or a prison sentence of up to one year.
The attorneys general reference 18 US Code in their letter arguing Garland is duty bound to uphold it. They also point to threats of violence and actual violence perpetrated by abortion activists over the past week that have gone without punishment, while Garland has directed the Department of Justice to investigate parents. Some of the same attorneys general who signed the letter also sued over the DOJ’s call for surveilling parents who express concerns at school board meetings or other forums.
“You were quick to respond to the purported ‘threat’ of parents speaking out at local school board meetings (though the basis for your threat assessment was shaky to say the least). Here, in the face of escalating extremism directed at the judicial branch, you have an obvious role to play,” the attorneys general wrote.
“Congress recognized that pressuring judges to change their votes by protesting outside their homes directly threatens the rule of law,” they added. “You profess to share those concerns, having unequivocally stated that attacking a courthouse ‘to prevent judges from actually deciding cases’ plainly constitutes ‘domestic extremism, domestic terrorism.’”
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The attorneys general argue that Garland must faithfully execute federal law “to prevent protestors from attempting to intimidate the Justices of the Supreme Court, both to protect the Justices and to safeguard the rule of law.”
Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody, who signed the letter, is also calling for an investigation into the protestors. She said, “The integrity of our courts is paramount to a free and democratic society. Any attempt to threaten or intimidate United States Supreme Court Justices so they change their votes should be thoroughly investigated by the Department of Justice – not just for the safety of judges and their families, but for the independence of our nation’s entire judicial system.”
Attorneys General from Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming also signed the letter.
About the Author: Bethany Blankley is a writer at the Center Square, Patheos/Hedgerow, political analyst and former press secretary at Capitol Hill / NY / WDC. Follow Bethany on Twitter @BethanyBlankley.