The Judiciary is seeking an additional $12.4 million in its budget request to Congress to improve physical security of the US Supreme Court and further protect the justices, citing “evolving risks.”
Increases of $6.5 million for building improvements and $5.9 million to expand the activities of the Supreme Court police were part of the judiciary’s $9.1 billion request on Thursday for discretionary appropriations for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1.
The judiciary, in a fiscal 2024 budget document, said “on-going threat assessments show evolving risks that require continuous protection” for the justices by the Supreme Court police.
Security was ramped up after a leaked draft of its conservative-led opinion last spring overturning abortion rights sparked protests at the court and outside the justices’ homes.
Congress swiftly approved bipartisan legislation protecting their families. US marshals also deployed outside their residences. The most publicized incident came in June when an armed California man who said he planned to kill Brett Kavanaugh was arrested near the justice’s Chevy Chase, Maryland, home.
Increased security funding would allow the Supreme Court police to hire contractors, who would eventually become full-time employees, to “augment” its work, the judiciary said.
More money for physical security of the Supreme Court is the result of a “comprehensive review and recommendations” from the US Army Corps of Engineers and “needed to reinforce the building,” the judiciary said.
The Judiciary’s overall budget request is 8% more than the enacted amount for the previous fiscal year. The courts cited maintenance of ongoing operations, IT security modernization, and increased staffing as reasons for the additional funding request.
Judicial security has been a focus after US District Judge Esther Salas’ son was murdered at their family home in New Jersey in 2020.
In response, Congress passed a plan in December to prevent certain personal information about federal judges from being shared online. The Judiciary also received $112.5 million in supplemental appropriations to “harden” courthouses against security threats in a congressional funding for fiscal year 2023.
The new request includes a total of $783.5 million for court security, which covers funding for the “vulnerability management program” the judiciary started after the murder of Salas’ son and security modernization, among other things. That amount is an annual increase of 4.4%.
The Judiciary also said it plans to hire a chief information officer to oversee the IT work of the Administrative Office of the US Courts after a government watchdog group reccomended it in July. It said it plans to select someone for that position this spring.
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