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N.Y. Times Letter: The Monitoring of Protests at the Supreme Court

To the Editor:

Re “More Agencies Are Using Undercover Operations” (front page, Nov. 16):

The revelation that plainclothes law enforcement officers are monitoring protests at the Supreme Court is unnerving but not surprising. I recently witnessed a Supreme Court police officer approach a group of demonstrators and ask who they were and what group they were from, and then radio the information to someone inside the building.

This micromanagement of gatherings is in line with the court’s refusal to allow individuals or groups to assemble on the sizable plaza in front of the building; in fact, the Justice Department is prosecuting a plaza demonstrator. But ironically the court has disallowed protest-free buffer zones around abortion clinics and military funerals.

It’s no wonder, then, that the relationship between the public and the justices — who don’t allow cameras during hearings, don’t post their financial disclosure reports online and don’t publicly state reasons for their periodic recusals — remains strained.

The justices hold an honored place in our democracy and should follow the tenets of the First Amendment that they are charged with safeguarding and let the demonstrators be.


Washington, Nov. 19, 2014

The writer is executive director of Fix the Court, a national nonprofit that advocates institutional reforms to make the Supreme Court more open and accountable.

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