As abortion ruling nears, U.S. Supreme Court erects barricades to the public

WASHINGTON, June 17 (Reuters) – Surrounded by an ominous security fence and off-limits to the public since March 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court is set to hand down a landmark ruling in the coming weeks that could significantly restrict the right to abortion behind closed doors with not a single justice in sight.

No members of the public have been allowed in the courthouse since COVID-19 pandemic precautions were implemented in March 2020. The scene in court became tenser following protests and threats against some of the nine judges caused by the leak of a draft in May. opinion indicating that they are about to overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade who legalized abortion nationwide. The court has a 6-3 conservative majority.

The 8ft (2.4m) high fence was erected in the days following the leak as the court tightened security measures.

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While the rest of official Washington, including other government buildings including the White House and Capitol, has at least partially reopened to the public as the pandemic wanes, America’s top judicial body remains in a form of lockdown. with what appears to be a siege mentality even though it wields enormous influence over public policy.

For Guido Reichstadter, an abortion-rights protester who has camped outside the courthouse since early June, the fencing is a sign of how out of touch judges — or at least the six conservatives — are with public sentiment.

“They try to insulate themselves from the effects of their actions. Otherwise, why would you put up a fence?” Reichstadter asked.

Reichstadter was arrested June 6 for locking himself in the fence by the neck and spent a night in jail. Read more

“To me, it sends the message that they’re weak, they’re scared, they’re isolated,” Reichstadter said of the fence.

Emotions have been running high since the Politico news agency published the draft abortion ruling drafted by conservative judge Samuel Alito on May 2. read more

Since then, protesters have gathered outside the homes of some of the Tory judges. A California man named Nicholas Roske, carrying a handgun, ammunition, crowbar and pepper spray, has been charged with attempted murder after being arrested June 8 near Judge Brett’s residence Kavanaugh in Maryland. Read more

Congress on Tuesday passed legislation to bolster the security of the nine justices, though lawmakers did not include protections for the families of clerks and other Supreme Court workers due to Republican opposition. Read more

After the leak, conservative judge Clarence Thomas, known for his criticism of the Roe decision, said May 6 at a legal conference in Atlanta that the court should not be “bullied into giving you only the results you want. “. Read more

Abortion advocates are sensitive to concerns about the judges’ safety, saying they have also received threats in the wake of the leak.

“I would say the court protects itself, protects its employees,” said Kristan Hawkins, president of the Students for Life group.


The abortion ruling will come in a case involving a Republican-backed Mississippi law banning abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy that was struck down by lower courts as a violation of the Roe precedent. The court also has 17 other cases to decide, with the term usually completed by the end of June, including rulings that could expand gun rights, favor Christian conservatives and limit the federal government’s power to fight change. climate, among other issues.

The court slowly emerged from the pandemic. He resumed oral argument in person last October after holding oral argument remotely by teleconference for 18 months, but only let court staff, lawyers and some journalists into the courtroom. Since the court completed oral arguments for the warrant on April 27, strangers have been kept away from the building. Read more

One of the many changes in court practice instituted during the pandemic has been to issue decisions only online, without a formal court session. This means that judges no longer read summaries of their decisions and dissenting opinions from the bench. It used to be an opportunity for judges who strongly disagreed with a decision to passionately express their point of view.

A court spokesperson did not respond to a question about why the judges did not resume playing the bench announcements. The court did not say when or if those sessions would resume. He showed no sign of live streaming audio of the opinion announcements in the same way that the audio of the oral arguments was provided.

Gabe Roth, executive director of Fix the Court, a group which advocates for court reform, said there was no reason not to broadcast decision announcements live, noting it would be the equivalent of the President Joe Biden holding a press conference in which he summarized a new executive order.

“It’s infuriating that they’re so resistant to change, but that’s kind of what they’re known for,” Roth said of the court.

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Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Lawrence Hurley

Thomson Reuters

Washington-based journalist covering legal cases with a focus on the United States Supreme Court, Pulitzer Prize winner for a team project on how the qualified immunity defense protects police officers accused of excessive force.

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