Funding mostly absent from Supreme Court security discussion

Aidan Quigley, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in Political News

Hagerty said he thinks $10 million is the minimum needed to ensure short-term security. “I hope this is a very temporary issue,” he said. “But right now, it’s a very real issue in terms of a heightened security threat against our nation’s Supreme Court justices and their families.”

The Financial Services Appropriations subcommittees in each chamber have jurisdiction over the federal court system’s funding. Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., who leads that panel in his chamber, said appropriators will evaluate the threats to the Supreme Court and wider court system.

Hagerty’s proposal wouldn’t technically require added money given it would come from the Federal Protective Service. But if they end up charging others more, those agencies would have to eat the added cost or ask Congress for more funds.

In the current environment, Hagerty is finding little enthusiasm, even on his own side of the aisle.

Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., a member of the Financial Services Appropriations panel, said he thinks all nondefense funds should be frozen at current levels. “We have to do our part to control inflation,” he said.

Calls unheeded

The renewed focus on threats facing the Supreme Court comes as calls to beef up lower court security funding have gone largely unheeded.

Congress has not acted on calls by the Judicial Conference of the United States, the policymaking body for the federal court system, over the past two years for supplemental security funding.

Despite the 2020 murder of Daniel Anderl, the son of U.S. District Judge Esther Salas, and a number of other recent instances of violence perpetrated against court officers, legislation aimed at limiting the personal information available on the internet about judges and their families remains stalled. That legislation has drawn First Amendment concerns from Roth and others.


Threats against the court system are only growing, according to the U.S. Marshals Service, which counted up a 387 percent increase in threats against judges and court personnel between 2015 and 2021. And that’s before the latest fracas over the landmark 1973 abortion ruling.

The marshals receive their own funding as well as a large chunk of the separate court security account in the federal judiciary budget, which funds the lower courts. Direct U.S. Marshals Service appropriations this fiscal year total $1.58 billion, a nearly 6 percent increase; the White House has asked for $1.81 billion in fiscal 2023, which would be a hefty 14 percent boost.

In fiscal 2022, however, Congress docked the administration’s Marshals Service request by $60 million. Although lawmakers may be more sympathetic this year given the marshals’ new duties providing 24/7 security for high court justices, the chief obstacle — as ever — is a constricted funding environment.

“The issue is just overall tight budgets,” Van Hollen said. “There are a whole range of important priorities we’d like to fund.”


(CQ Roll Call's Lindsey McPherson contributed to this report.)


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