Gavel Grab

Security Concerns Debated After Robbery of Justice Breyer

The robbery of Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer at his vacation home on the island of Nevis in the Caribbean has raised again the question of how much security protection the justices should get.

A Blog of Legal Times post summarized the ways that justices may be protected:

“[W]hen they are at public events in the D.C. area, justices are typically accompanied by Supreme Court police; when they are in the rest of the country, officers from the local U.S. marshal’s office are seen providing security. When they travel abroad, security appears to be handled through the U.S. embassy at their destination.”

Brian Todd said in a CNN broadcast the robbery of Justice Breyer by a machete-wielding intruder raises the question, “Are America’s top judicial figures adequately protected?” Todd did not give an answer. His report included an interview with a former U.S. Secret Service director who said full-time security for the justices, which is not provided now, would be both expensive and invasive to privacy.

Initial news reports did not indicate that Justice Breyer’s robber knew the identity of his intended victim. The CNN report alluded to the killing of family members of a Chicago federal judge in 2005. In that case, a man frustrated over a failed lawsuit later was identified as the killer of the mother and husband of Judge Joan Lefkow, after the man had committed suicide.

Steps were taken afterward to improve security for judges and court employees, as outlined in a New York Times article in 2006.

At, Dave Gibson wrote a commentary this week that was entitled, “Should Supreme Court justices have around-the-clock protection?” Gibson suggested, “While the justices have been resistant to such protection, it may now simply be imposed upon them.”


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