On Tuesday, the House passed a bill expanding safeguards to Supreme Court justices’ immediate family members with overwhelming bipartisan support, despite seven Democratic lawmakers from New Jersey objecting to the bill’s scope.
The Supreme Court Police Parity Act of 2022 was approved by the Senate last month and will now be signed into law by President Joe Biden. According to the bill’s language, it would allow the families of Supreme Court justices to be covered by the security now granted to jurists if the Supreme Court marshal “determines such protection is required.”
After US District Judge Esther Salas’ son was killed in a shooting at her home in the state in 2020, the seven New Jersey Democrats wanted federal judges to be protected as well. Despite the absence of that language in the final bill, it does empower the Supreme Court marshal to provide security to “any officer” of the bench if the marshal believes it essential.
Reps. Bonnie Watson Coleman, Albio Sires, Mikie Sherrill, Donald M. Payne Jr., Bill Pascrell Jr., Tom Malinowski, and Josh Gottheimer voted against the bill in the House. A handful of the Democratic caucus’ more liberal members also voted against the bill.
After the Justice Department detained a man near Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s home in Maryland earlier in June and accused him with attempting or threatening to abduct or murder a US judge, security around the high court garnered renewed attention.
Salas’ death served as an obvious cause for the measure’s reach to be enlarged for the seven New Jersey House members who voted against it on Tuesday.
Salas has pushed for more protections for current and former federal judges since her son’s death nearly two years ago, including legislation that would protect their privacy and the privacy of their families by removing personal data such as home addresses and vehicle information from databases and public records.
She underlined the need for stronger safety for federal judges in an interview with CNN last week, citing the tragic killing of a Wisconsin judge in what appeared to be a targeted attack.
“I’m in a state of heartbreak.” My heart is shattered. “Another family will have to go through what Mark and I have been through over the past 23 months,” Salas told CNN. “It’s irrational. It is quite hazardous. We also need to begin safeguarding judges across the country.”
“Many judges have died for doing one thing: doing their duty, which is to preserve democracy,” she remarked. “Judges, in fact, are on the front lines of ensuring that democracy is alive and well in our society.”
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In recent years, the US Marshals Service has documented an increase in threats against judges. According to the Marshals Service, threats and indecent comments directed at the judiciary roughly doubled from 2016 to 2018 and have remained high – about 4,500 in 2021 — ever since. About 2,700 judges, as well as 30,000 federal prosecutors and court personnel, are protected by the US marshals.