Supreme Court asks Congress for more security money due to threats
With a new annual budget request posted Thursday, the Supreme Court told Congress that it needs nearly $6 million in new security funding to expand the protection justices receive following threats to the court last summer.
“Ongoing threat assessments show evolving risks that require continuous protection,” the court said in its budget request. “Additional funding would provide for contract positions, eventually transitioning to full-time employees, that will augment capabilities of the Supreme Court police force and allow it to accomplish its protective mission.”
Thursday’s submission to Congress is the first annual budget request the Supreme Court is making to Congress since Justice Brett Kavanaugh was targeted with an alleged assassination attempt last summer.
That attempt, along with how lower court judges and their families have been the target of violence, has raised the issue of judicial security – which tends to have broad, bipartisan support on Capitol Hill. Also raising questions about the justices’ safety were the protestors that demonstrated outside the justices’ homes in the wake of a leaked draft opinion last spring that would go on to overturn national abortion rights protections.
After the Kavanaugh incident, Congress passed supplemental funding last year to boost the justices’ security.
The new budget documents referenced that additional funding and said with the next round of annual spending, $4 million of what it requested would go to the “annualization of police pay adjustments and protective activities that were funded” with the supplemental security bill.
Overall, the Supreme Court is asking for $150,824,000 in the coming appropriations process for 2024.
The court is also asking for a little more than $3 million to pay for restoration work of the building’s courtyard and a number of fountains on its grounds. The fountain work will include upgrades to the fountains’ mechanical equipment and the installation of pH monitoring controls equipment.
And the court is asking for $6.5 million for “for physical security upgrades” to “reinforce” the iconic building, which they said will include meeting recommendations made following a “comprehensive review” by the US Army Corps of Engineers.
Overall, the judicial branch is requesting $9.1 billion in the spending legislation Congress passes for 2024, which is an 8% percent increase over the $8.5 billion the judiciary received in the funding legislation for 2023.
Of the 2024 request, $783.5 million would be used for the judiciary’s court security fund – a $33.3 million increase from 2023 levels. Some of that funding would go to additional positions in the US Marshals Service, which is tasked with protecting the courts and executing other court functions.
As part of the court security fund request, the judiciary is also asking for an increase of $1.5 million for the Judiciary Vulnerability Management Program, which “will fund additional software licenses, automated tools, and support for identifying, redacting, and reducing personally identifiable information from the internet for judges and eligible family members.”
Some of that money will help fund programs set up by a judicial privacy law enacted last year that allows federal judges – who have increasingly become targets of threats, violence and even assassination plots – to shield certain personal information about them from public view.
The budget request specifically references legislation which, among other things, requires that judges be offered training on how to make removal requests, as well as training on home security and on using social media.
This story has been updated with additional details.