Time to Ease and Enhance Supreme Court Justice Safeguards

The arrest of a gunman near Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s household on Wednesday should raise safety concerns. 

The suspect, in his 20s, was upset with Kavanaugh over an unreleased draft of the Supreme Court’s ruling that indicated Roe v. Wade would be overturned. 

Possible Attack

Kavanaugh’s risk at first seemed low.

The individual was stopped near Kavanaugh’s home, not on the justice’s driveway. That means the individual was under observation at the time of his arrest; the Post notes officials were tipped off to his conduct.

The man’s detention near, but not on, Kavanaugh’s driveway would allow law enforcement agencies to balance his protection with evidence collection. 

As Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization approaches and the prospective overturning of Roe v. Wade approaches, this event foretells ramping up security issues for Supreme Court justices. 

Since the Dobbs opinion security flaw, the U.S. Marshals Service guarded all nine Supreme Court justices’ homes.

This adds to the security sensors mounted at judges’ homes when the court shortlists them. These sensors are used to detect intrusions and threats. 

The Supreme Court Police’s Dignitary Protection Unit and local police protect Supreme Court judges at home. Due to illegal protests outside the justices’ homes, they need more at-home security.

This latest incident should convince the Marshals Service to limit protests to neighborhoods away from justices’ homes.

Given an assassin’s ability to blend into a crowd, it’s surprising the Marshals Service hasn’t done so. 

The bigger question is whether the justices’ security arrangements are adequate. Protection of justices is a top concern. 


Personal protection takes persistence. Permanent security can adjust to a protectee’s habits and provide ongoing protection. This consistency is lost when justices have separate security from the Supreme Court Officers and the Marshals Service.

The Marshals Provider has a 24/7 protective threat center, like the Secret Service and Diplomatic Security Service. Still, it likely communicates with Supreme Court Police protection details, rather than its own deputy marshals.

The Marshals Service’s 2022 budget proposal suggests the DPU may be underfunded. The request notes these vehicles can be used by the Supreme Court Police “as it builds its” Dignitary Protection Unit. This suggests unit upgrades. 

While that’s a good thing, it’s worth asking if the Marshals Service must take on full-time justice protection. If capacity is an issue, the Marshals Service could fast-track the hiring of DPU members.

Many of these officers will be able to adapt to federal service. The Marshals Service should make sure that Chief Justice John Roberts and the other Supreme Court judges are safe all the time.

As the scandal over the court’s activities grows, it’s time to end its officers’ discreet and intersecting protection. Threatening a Supreme Court justice threatens the Constitution and the rule of law. It’s unacceptable.