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June 8, 2022
Today, during the dark hours before dawn, a man was arrested near the home of Justice Brett Kavanaugh. The man was reportedly carrying weapons and burglary tools. He has been charged with the attempted murder of a Supreme Court justice. He told police he intended to kill Kavanaugh, motivated by the prospect of the justice’s expected votes in forthcoming abortion and Second Amendment cases. This is the latest development to follow the leak, in early May, of Justice Samuel Alito’s opinion overturning Roe v. Wade in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.
Within days after the leak, activists spearheaded by a dark-money group calling itself “Ruth Sent Us” doxxed the six justices expected to be in the Dobbs majority, posting a map of their homes in a solicitation — complete with the offer of stipends — of protests that predictably introduced a new level of personal danger to the occupants of the highest court in the land. The justices were given extra security, and the Supreme Court building itself went into lockdown with 8-foot fencing erected around it.
The dark place the court finds itself today is just the latest episode of a saga that dates back some 35 years. When Robert Bork was nominated to the Supreme Court in 1987, People for the American Way, the National Abortion Rights Action League, and numerous other dark-money groups on the left waged an unprecedented campaign to smear the nominee via media, joined by prominent Democratic politicians. Not coincidentally, Bork had been nominated to replace swing justice Lewis Powell, and court watchers at the time believed his vote could make the difference between upholding and overturning Roe.
Four years later, the same groups almost defeated the nomination of Clarence Thomas in a campaign of vilification that was even more personal and ugly than the one launched against Bork. The persecution of Thomas has never stopped.
Justice Brett Kavanaugh was nominated to the Supreme Court by President Donald Trump.
More recently, of course, the Left’s tactic of character assassination against Republican nominees to the court would return, with the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh vying with the Thomas nomination for the distinction of the most disgraceful attack on a Supreme Court nominee in living memory.
After their failure to defeat Kavanaugh, dark-money groups, now better-funded than ever, went into overdrive with their top allies on Capitol Hill. In 2019, Rhode Island Democrat Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, joined by some Democratic colleagues, filed an amicus brief that threatened to restructure the court if it did not rule in a Second Amendment case the way they wanted. The following year, then-Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer went so far as to threaten in front of the Supreme Court that Justices Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch would “pay the price” for ruling the wrong way — this the day the court heard oral argument in an abortion case. Today, his reckless threats almost came true.
During the 2020 election cycle, dark-money groups in the Arabella Advisors network formed a coalition to push court-packing as members of the network spent over $1 billion to help elect Joe Biden and Senate Democrats.
After Biden’s inauguration, the Arabella-incubated group Demand Justice launched a “Breyer Retire” campaign, complete with an ad campaign and a mobile billboard truck traversing Washington, D.C., to bully Justice Stephen Breyer to retire so a younger activist could take his seat.
So the latest developments in this long saga of sordid intimidation tactics are shocking, but not surprising, given what preceded it. Demand Justice and other movement leftists applauded the leak. The White House notoriously refused to condemn the doxxing of the justices when first confronted with it. Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi downplayed the protests.
Notice how little we have seen of the pro-Roe side relying on efforts to get their way through legitimate and obvious channels — to argue their position on its legal merits. Perhaps on some level they know what has long been clear to pro-choice and pro-life legal thinkers alike — that the Constitution simply does not include a right to abortion.
For those on the Left, legal analysis has given way to political platitudes. Principled debate has given way to raw intimidation tactics. All of this only bolsters the conclusion that those who seek to subvert the court are on the wrong side of history.
Today we see the toll taken by these intimidation tactics — and by ostensible leaders who keep appeasing the radicals in their party. This is why leaks of Supreme Court opinions are dangerous. This is why doxxing justices is a bad idea. This is why justices’ homes should be off limits.
This is why the court must release the Dobbs opinion as soon as possible. This is not, to quote Chief Justice John Roberts, “business as usual” at the Court. The threat to the justices is not theoretical. Until the opinion is finally released, the justices are in grave danger.
Carrie Campbell Severino is President of the Judicial Crisis Network.