Justices have been provided with added security as the court readies to issue an important ruling on abortion.
An armed man who made threats against conservative US Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh was arrested near the judge’s home in Maryland, a site of protests by abortion-rights advocates in recent weeks, a court spokesperson said.
The man, who has not been identified, was arrested and transported to a police facility in Montgomery County in the Washington suburbs on Wednesday, court spokesperson Patricia McCabe said.
“At approximately 1:50am today, a man was arrested near Justice Kavanaugh’s residence. The man was armed and made threats against Justice Kavanaugh,” McCabe said.
The development comes amid intense polarisation in the United States over access to abortions. Abortion-rights supporters have held protests outside Kavanaugh’s home and those of at least two other justices and rallied outside the courthouse since the May 2 publication of a leaked draft ruling showing that the court’s conservative majority was poised to overturn its landmark 1973 Roe v Wade decision that legalised abortion nationwide.
The draft opinion, authored by conservative Justice Samuel Alito and published by the Politico news outlet, would uphold a Mississippi law banning abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy and overturn the Roe decision that recognised a woman’s constitutional right to obtain an abortion.
Such a ruling would enable states to outlaw abortion, a goal of many Republican elected officials and religious conservatives. A decision is expected by the end of June or early July.
The Washington Post reported that the man, who it said was in his mid-20s, was angry about the draft opinion.
Citing an unnamed law enforcement official, the Associated Press reported that the man is from California, was armed with a gun and a knife and had arrived at Kavanaugh’s home in a taxi.
The US Department of Justice said on May 11 that it was increasing security for Supreme Court justices following the leaked draft opinion. Attorney General Merrick Garland directed the US Marshals Service to provide additional support to the court’s existing police force, the department said.
The court building is now surrounded by high black fencing. A protester on Monday chained himself by the neck to that perimeter fence.
“Threats of violence and actual violence against the justices, of course, strike at the heart of our democracy,” Garland told reporters when asked about the arrest.
Kavanaugh, appointed by former President Donald Trump, has served on the court since 2018. Three appointees have been appointed by Trump, giving the court a 6-3 conservative majority.
In April, Ketanji Brown Jackson, 51, who was appointed by President Joe Biden, was confirmed to the Supreme Court. She is the first Black woman ever to serve on the court and will begin service at the beginning of the next term.
On Tuesday, the AP reported that the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has directed a memo to local government agencies warning that the looming Supreme Court decision could lead to violence from either extremist supporters – or opponents of abortion rights – depending on the outcome.
Abortion rights opponents have carried out at least 10 killings as well as dozens of arson and bomb attacks against medical facilities in their long campaign to overturn Roe v Wade.
DHS said there is also a potential for violence from those who support abortion rights, citing recent damage to buildings used by abortion opponents in Wisconsin and Oregon.
Last month, a poll conducted by Marquette University Law School found that public approval of the Supreme Court has fallen following the leak. According to the poll, 55 percent disapprove of the court, up from 45 percent in March.