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senate Bill S. 2511

Should Supreme Court Justices be Protected by the Supreme Court Police Whenever They Travel?

Argument in favor

With the rising number of threats against public officials and the politicization of the Supreme Court, the Supreme Court justices are bigger targets than ever. They should be protected by default, and the authority for this should be permanent to ensure there won’t be gaps in their protection.

Argument opposed

The Supreme Court’s justices are already free to request security whenever they travel. Rather than making this authorization permanent, Congress should do another limited duration authorization so that they can revisit the issue some time in the future.

bill Progress


  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The house has not voted
  • The senate has not voted
      senate Committees
      Committee on the Judiciary
    IntroducedSeptember 19th, 2019

What is Senate Bill S. 2511?

This bill would provide permanent additional security for U.S. Supreme Court Justices. To this end, it would give the Marshal of the Supreme Court and Supreme Court Police the authority to protect the Chief Justice, any Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, and other individuals in any location. This would allow justices to be protected domestically and internationally if necessary, mirroring the authority given to the Capitol Police and Secret Service as they protect members of Congress and the president. 

The current authorization to provide security for justices outside of Supreme Court grounds is not permanent, and expires on December 29, 2019.

Impact

Supreme Court Police; Supreme Court Justices; and the Marshal of the Supreme Court.

Cost of Senate Bill S. 2511

A CBO cost estimate is unavailable.

More Information

In-DepthSen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) introduced this bill to provide permanent additional security for U.S. Supreme Court Justices

“I’m very pleased to be working with Senator Sinema on this necessary legislation to protect the Supreme Court. We live in volatile times and this bill will permanently reauthorize security for the Supreme Court Justices when they travel outside the grounds of the Court. The rule of law is one of the fundamental principles of democracy, and we should do all we can to protect our judicial institutions. I’m certain this bill will become law.”

Original cosponsor Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) adds, “Permanently renewing the Supreme Court’s security is a smart use of taxpayer dollars and ensures the Court’s police have the resources they need to protect our Justices.”

This bill has one cosponsor, Sen. Sinema.


Of NoteFix the Court (FTC), a nonpartisan group that advocates accountability and transparency at the Supreme Court, reports that Supreme Court justices only get security protection during domestic trips outside the Washington metropolitan area when they request it, and aren’t required to have security coverage while traveling. Given the rise in threats against public officials in recent years, FTC argues that this policy “may no longer be wise, if it ever was.”

Gabe Roth, Fix the Court’s executive director, says the lack of comprehensive security protocols for justices (the current security policy is just over a page long) is concerning given potential threats and several aging justices’ “fading health.” 

According to records obtained by a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit by FTC, Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor might have faced threats on trips to New York and Massachusetts for which they did request marshals’ protection. 

The Supreme Court Police, one of the smallest federal agencies, is responsible for providing the Supreme Court’s protection. The force has about 125 officers, and is led by the Marshal of the United States Supreme Court (no relation to the U.S. Marshals Service). The Supreme Court Police handles protection for the justices in Washington and coordinates security when they travel abroad, and the Marshals Service, which is part of the Justice Department, picks up the security for domestic travel and is reimbursed by the Supreme Court.


Media:

Summary by Lorelei Yang

(Photo Credit: Supreme Court of the United States - Roberts Court 2018.jpg via Wikimedia Commons)

AKA

Reauthorizing Security for Supreme Court Justices Act

Official Title

A bill to amend title 40, United States Code, to provide the Marshal of the Supreme Court of the United States and Supreme Court Police with the authority to protect the Chief Justice of the United States, any Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, and other individuals in any location, and for other purposes.

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