Supreme Court Marshal in letter urges Maryland officials to enforce anti-picketing laws
“For weeks, large groups of protesters chanting slogans, using megaphones and beating drums have been picketing the judges’ homes in Maryland,” the letter to Hogan said. “Earlier this week, for example, 75 protesters picketed a judge’s home in Maryland for 20-30 minutes in the evening, then picketed another judge’s home for 30 minutes, where the crowd grew to 100, and eventually returned to the judge’s first home to picket for another 20 minutes. This is exactly the kind of conduct the laws of Maryland and Montgomery County prohibit.
The Marshal cited Maryland law, which states that “[a] no one may intentionally assemble with another in a way that disturbs a person’s right to peace in his or her home” and that the law “provides for a penalty of imprisonment of up to 90 days or a fine of $100”.
The letters dated July 1 also cite a Montgomery County law that says “[a] a person or group of persons shall not picket in front of or beside a private residence”, and a law which states that a group may march through a residential area “without stopping at a particular private residence” .
Abortion rights advocates initially took to the streets outside judges’ homes after the Supreme Court’s draft notice signaling it planned to strike down Roe vs. Wade was leaked to Politico in May. Protesters continued to gather outside homes in June when the 49-year-old ruling that guaranteed a person’s constitutional right to an abortion was officially overturned.
Following the publication of the leaked draft, but before the court issued its opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a California man was arrested near Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh’s home in Chevy Chase and charged with attempting to kill a judge. Nicholas Roske, is accused of flying to Maryland with a gun and burglary tools with the intention of breaking into Kavanaugh’s home to kill him. Prosecutors said he was angry about the leak of the draft and the recent shooting at a school in Uvalde, Texas. Roske pleaded not guilty.
“The laws of Maryland and Montgomery County provide the tools to prevent picketing activity in judges’ homes, and they must be enforced without delay,” said one of the letters from Curley, who is also leading the investigation into the leak from Politico.
Ongoing protests outside judges’ homes have sparked a legal debate over whether laws banning picketing outside judges’ private homes are constitutional.
It was not immediately clear Friday whether officials or law enforcement had received the Marshal’s letter or how they intended to respond to the request.
Maryland State Police, the Montgomery County Police Department, spokespersons for Hogan and Elrich and the U.S. Supreme Court did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the letter Friday evening.
The Montgomery County Police Department website states on its homepage: “The Montgomery County Police Department is committed to upholding the First Amendment rights of all individuals wishing to participate in peaceful protests and assemblies. and legal,” and links to a list of protest laws “to help educate the community,” including those cited in the Supreme Court Marshal’s letters.
“Peaceful and lawful protests and assemblies are the cornerstone of our democracy,” the document reads on the county police website.
Curley’s letters cite earlier comments by Hogan and Elrich regarding the protests at the judges’ homes, including a statement from a press release by Hogan saying, “We will continue to partner with federal law enforcement officials and to help keep these residential areas safe.”
In the letter to Elrich, Curley said a request was made in May to the county police department regarding enforcement of the Montgomery County ordinance.
The letter also cited a news report in which a Montgomery County official said people “cannot demonstrate statically in front of someone’s house for political reasons” and that protesters are usually told they are have to move around and cannot stay in one place for an extended period of time. He also cited a letter published in the Washington Post from the author of the county ordinance urging the county executive and police department to enforce the law.
“It is illegal in Montgomery County to picket a person’s home for a matter that involves a person’s work,” the letter said, citing former councilwoman Gail Ewing.