Bill to provide security for SCOTUS family members swiftly passes Senate, goes to House

Upper chamber approved Monday night by unanimous consent

Updated: May 10, 2022 - 12:16pm

The Senate late Monday fast-tracked and passed a bipartisan bill that would add security protection to the immediate family members of Supreme Court justices.

The bill was passed with a parliamentary procedure known as "unanimous consent," meaning no debate, motions or other formalities were required for passage – as pro-abortion demonstrators protest outside of the homes of several high court justices.

The protests follow the publication last week of a leaked opinion by Justice Samuel Alito that indicates he and other judges in the court's conservative majority are ready to rule on a case that will consequently reverse the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade case that gave women the constitutional right to an abortion. 

The measure now moves to the Democrat-controlled House, in which it also is expected to pass. 

Democrat President Joe Biden on Monday publicly opposes the protests, which have been staged in front of the homes of Justices Alito, and Bret Kavanaugh and Chief Justice John Roberts.

The Supreme Court Police Parity Act was introduced in the upper chamber by Sens. John Cornyn, a Texas Republican, and Chris Coons, a Delaware Democrat. 

"The events of the past week have intensified the focus on Supreme Court Justices' families, who are unfortunately facing threats to their safety in today's increasingly polarized political climate," Cornyn said Monday. "We must act to ensure Justices and their families are protected from those who wish to cause them harm by extending Supreme Court police security to family members."

Said Coons: "If the families of Supreme Court Justices have the same profile and exposure as the highest ranking officials in our government, they deserve the same level of protection. We must take threats that come from extremes on both sides of the political spectrum against Supreme Court Justices seriously, and that makes this bill an unfortunate necessity."

On Monday, the U.S. Marshals Service confirmed that officers are "helping respond to "increased security concerns stemming from the unauthorized release of the draft opinion."

"The Marshal of the Supreme Court and the Supreme Court Police are responsible for the protection of the United States Supreme Court and its facilities. The U.S. Marshals Service (USMS) has a strong partnership with the Supreme Court Police, and upon the request of the Marshal of the Supreme Court, the USMS does provide assistance as needed," the federal agency said in a statement. 

ShutdownDC organized a protest outside of Alito's home.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell criticized the protests, saying they may be illegal, given a federal law that prohibits protests with the intent of influencing a judge.

"Trying to scare federal judges into ruling a certain way is far outside the bounds of First Amendment speech or protest; it's an attempt to replace the rule of law with the rule of mobs," the Kentucky Republican said on the Senate floor.