Ricochet is the best place on the internet to discuss the issues of the day, either through commenting on posts or writing your own for our active and dynamic community in a fully moderated environment. In addition, the Ricochet Audio Network offers over 50 original podcasts with new episodes released every day.
Among the most regrettable, if foreseeable, political consequences of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization has been the rise of vehement and prolonged picketing outside the homes of the six conservative Supreme Court justices, both before and after the decision came down June 24.
The key controversy is whether this picketing is protected by the First Amendment or whether it is just the latest version of high-tech intimidation that should be banned by forcibly removing the pickets before violence occurs. Regrettably, too many First Amendment experts, like George Washington Law School Professor Jonathan Turley, have adopted what I termed a generation ago First Amendment exceptionalism. This dangerous attitude turns “Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech” into a general mandate offering protection to all sorts of aggressive conduct, when the clause’s proper office is to prevent aggressive legislation from outlawing all forms of dissent displeasing or offensive to the powers that be.
Today, both the federal government and the states take the position that the only response to menacing pickets is to allow them to remain in place, while providing the targets of that picketing extensive security measures to prevent outright violence in ways consistent with recent legislation that affords the justices round-the-clock security “on par with those granted to some members of the executive and legislative branches.” The pickets use bullhorns, and their actions surely inhibit the free entry to and exit from these residences by the justices and their families. The presence of an armed guard only raises the bedlam. Multiple alternative forums are available to protest Dobbs, but this ugly combination of intimidation and invasion of privacy is tolerated as the new normal. Moving the demonstrators to another place would avoid these dreadful complications.