I don’t like the tactic of protesting in front of someone’s home — but I have done it myself. Since it was not at a judge’s residence, it was perfectly legal.
It was many years ago, when the Philadelphia Daily News and the Philadelphia Inquirer were flush, actually rolling in the bucks produced by the staffs of the two papers.
Although up to $100 million a year was siphoned out of Philly — then Knight-Ridder’s top financial cow — the company’s offer to employees when a new contract came around was stingy.
I was a union officer — including decades when I was a shop steward (Stuart the Steward) — but I never wanted to be on the negotiating team because it required a level of patience I never acquired. It also required listening to lies from the company about how poor it was, when even a cub reporter could dig up the facts to prove that was not true.
One year, in desperation, we decided that we would picket the home of the publisher located on a particularly nice suburban street. We had picket signs and leaflets that we handed out to neighbors, who were generally unfriendly. Not surprisingly, they chose the man they knew over a bunch of scruffy, mouthy, poorly-dressed unionists, even though we did not use bullhorns and protested only in the early evening. We were civil, we made no threats. We knew where the line was.
So I understand the temptation.
There is a federal statute that prohibits demonstrations around judges’ offices and residences. But the language of the law is important. Here are the key points, courtesy of Reason.com. I have italicized key words and phrases:
Whoever, with the intent of interfering with, obstructing, or impeding the administration of justice, or with the intent of influencing any judge, juror, witness, or court officer, in the discharge of his duty, pickets or parades in or near a building
housing a court of the United States, or in or near a building or residence occupied or used by such judge, juror, witness, or court officer, or with such intent uses any sound-truck or similar device or resorts to any other demonstration in or near any such building or residence, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both.
Any first-year law student knows the difficulty of proving intent, which exists only in a person’s mind. If they don’t admit to it, or you haven’t recorded them saying it, proving it is almost impossible. And ”near” is as vague as a word can be.
A prosecutor may ask why people are protesting if not to change a judge’s mind? The answer is obvious — they are protesting what they believe the Supreme Court will do, or has done. Realistically, protestors know they will not change the minds of Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett. That’s a majority, even without Chief Justice John Roberts, who is not a conservative lock. The protestors were blowing off steam more than anything else.
I have seen few signs nor heard any actual threats against the Justices the past few days.
I did hear a threat two years ago, when a vote went the “wrong way” for Democrats. It went like this:
“I want to tell you, Gorsuch; I want to tell you, Kavanaugh: You have released the whirlwind, and you will pay the price. You won’t know what hit you if you go forward with these awful decisions.”
Those words were shouted by Democratic Senate Leader Chuck Schumer in 2020. A real gem, he is.
It was a threat, but was it a threat of actual violence?
The liberal press had no more of a problem with him than it did with the violent riots that rocked the nation that summer.
Back to today.
I believe the federal statute is unconstitutional .
The First Amendment (I am adding italics): “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
The “where” is not mentioned, only the “why” and “how.” The right to assemble is as loose as Uncle Pete’s boxer shorts.
So far, no one has been arrested at these protests.
The law should be tested, and that will happen after a prosecutor arrests protestors.
They will go to court, there will be appeals.
In the end, it will be decided where?
At the U.S. Supreme Court, the very institution whose Justices are under attack.
Ain’t that a hoot?
Wait — there’s more.
Since each Justice has a direct, personal interest in this case, all nine should recuse themselves.
Where do we go from there?