US marshals should not arrest protesters outside judges’ houses, documents show

Deputy U.S. marshals assigned to guard Supreme Court justices last year have been ordered to try not to make arrests, according to documents revealed by a U.S. senator on Tuesday, which include assurances from Attorney General Merrick Garland to the Congress objected.

Sen. Katie Britt, a Republican from Alabama, confronted Mr. Garland about the training package used for marshals assigned to protect the justice system. It said arrests were “not” a priority.

Conservatives have argued that the protests, which erupted after a draft of a major abortion-rights ruling was leaked last spring, violate a federal law that prohibits protesting a judge’s house to influence a ruling.

No one has been charged under this law.

Mr. Garland told senators earlier this month that his prosecutors could not bring cases unless the marshals had made arrests, and marshals on the ground saw no reason to.

Ms Britt said the guides showed they were not aimed at it.

“They were actively discouraged from doing this,” she said.

A section of the guide specifically called Arrests are “not the aim” of the operation, and another section said arrests should be “a last resort to prevent physical harm.”

That seems to refute Mr Garland’s suggestion that agents are free to make arrests for protesting judges, but simply see no reason to.

One page of the Guide dealt specifically with the Pressure on Judges Act. It said the law could lead to legal challenges and discouraged marshals from making arrests under the section.

A final page said arrests would first have to be coordinated with federal prosecutors, which Ms Britt says also contradicts Mr Garland’s claim that the marshals had a free hand.

“Everyone considered [marshals] Enforcement actions should be coordinated in advance with the appropriate USAO,” the guidance reads, using the acronym for US Attorney’s Office.

Ms. Britt asked Mr. Garland if he was aware of the guidelines at a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing on Tuesday.

He said he was unaware but stood by his earlier statements that marshals were still operational.

He said their first responsibility is to protect judges’ lives and property, “but that doesn’t mean they’re in any way barred from other types of arrests.”

“It is clear that the marshals were given different instructions,” Ms. Britt told him. “I would ask you to look at this.”

The lack of arrests has struck a chord with conservatives, who draw a contrast to the Justice Department’s zealous efforts in pursuing pro-life protesters outside abortion clinics.

Mr Garland defended his handling of judges’ safety, saying he had taken the unprecedented step of deploying the marshals to protect the judges.

But he told the Appropriations Panel Tuesday that he doesn’t want that mission to continue indefinitely and that Supreme Court police should eventually take over.

“We had hoped that this would not be a long-term solution for the judiciary,” he said.

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