When the House passed a bill extending security protections to Supreme Court justices’ immediate family members with overwhelming bipartisan support on Tuesday, it did so over the objections of seven Democratic members from New Jersey, who took issue with the measure’s scope.
The bill – the Supreme Court Police Parity Act of 2022 – was approved by the Senate last month and now heads to President Joe Biden to be signed into law. It would allow the families of Supreme Court justices to be covered by the security currently provided to the jurists if the marshal of the Supreme Court “determines such protection is necessary,” according to the text of the legislation.
But the seven New Jersey Democrats wanted protections to include federal judges, after US District Judge Esther Salas’ son was killed in a shooting at her home in the state in 2020. Though the final measure does not include that language, it does allow the marshal of the Supreme Court to provide security to “any officer” of the bench if the marshal deems it necessary.
The House members from New Jersey who voted against the bill are Reps. Bonnie Watson Coleman, Albio Sires, Mikie Sherrill, Donald M. Payne Jr., Bill Pascrell Jr., Tom Malinowski and Josh Gottheimer. A number of the more liberal members of the Democratic caucus also voted against the bill.
Security protections surrounding the high court received fresh attention after the Justice Department arrested a man near Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s house in Maryland earlier in June and charged him with attempting or threatening to kidnap or murder a US judge.
For those seven House members from New Jersey who voted against the act on Tuesday, Salas’ tragedy served as a clear reason for the measure’s scope to be expanded.
Since her son’s death nearly two years ago, Salas has pushed for greater protections for current and former federal judges, including legislation that would protect their privacy and the privacy of their families by keeping personal data such as home addresses and vehicle information from databases and public records.
Speaking to CNN last week, she stressed the need for more protections for federal judges, pointing to the recent death of a Wisconsin judge in what appeared to be a targeted attack.
“My reaction is heartache. My heart is broken. Another family is going to have to endure what Mark and I have been living with for now 23 months,” Salas told CNN. “It is senseless. It is dangerous. And we need to start protecting judges all over this country.”
“Many judges have lost their lives for doing one thing: their job, upholding democracy,” she said. “Really, judges do stand at the front line ensuring that democracy is, you know, alive and well in our country.”
The US Marshals Service has reported a rise in threats to judges in recent years. Threats and inappropriate comments made to the judiciary nearly doubled from 2016 to 2018 and have remained elevated – about 4,500 in 2021 – ever since, according to the Marshals Service. The US marshals are tasked with protecting about 2,700 judges, as well as 30,000 federal prosecutors and court officials.
CNN’s Clare Foran, Kristin Wilson, Annie Grayer, Eric Levenson and Boris Sanchez contributed to this report.