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Supreme Court seeks to further beef up security in wake of abortion decision

In a budget request, the court is asking for additional funds for police, cybersecurity and security upgrades to the courthouse.
Law enforcement officers watch protesters from behind security fencing near the Supreme Court on June 27, 2022.
Officers watch protests from behind security fencing near the Supreme Court last June 27, days after the court overturned Roe v. Wade.Eric Lee / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court is seeking millions of dollars from Congress to improve security after the leak of a draft ruling rolling back abortion rights led to both an internal investigation and protests that raised concerns about the safety of the justices.

In a $150 million budget request published Thursday that covers salaries and expenses, the court asked for almost $6 million in addition funding to "expand security activities conducted by Supreme Court Police to protect the justices." Threat assessments have shown "evolving risks that require continuous protection," the budget request said.

The court also asked for an addition $585,000 to fund new IT positions that would, among other things, address cybersecurity issues.

In a separate request relating to the building and grounds, the court asked for $6.5 million in unspecified "physical security upgrades" to the courthouse across the street from the Capitol that was part of a plan proposed by the Army Corps of Engineers to "reinforce the building envelope."

The total requested budget for the Supreme Court building and grounds is just over $20 million, a reduction of almost $9 million from what it received last year, which had included $18.7 million for other security upgrades. The court didn't immediately respond to NBC News' request for comment on the budget request.

In January, the Supreme Court issued its report into the May 2022 leak of the draft abortion ruling, concluding that it was unable to conclusively identify the leaker. As part of the investigation, the court consulted Michael Chertoff, who was homeland security secretary during the administration of President George W. Bush. Chertoff noted that the court had already sought to "increase security and tighten controls regarding the handling of sensitive documents." He wrote that he had recommended several measures the court could take to improve security, including restrictions on circulating hard copies of sensitive documents.

Washington was rocked in May when Politico published a draft opinion authored by Justice Samuel Alito that indicated the court, which has a 6-3 conservative majority, was about to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark abortion rights ruling.

Politico’s report led to abortion rights protests, prompting the court to erect a security fence around the building. In the months following, there were protests at the homes of some justices, and a man was charged with attempted murder after he was arrested near the home of conservative Justice Brett Kavanaugh while in possession of a handgun.

In June, the court did, indeed, overturn Roe on a 5-4 vote.

Overall the federal judiciary is seeking $9.1 billion in its budget request, which covers all federal courts and personnel. That includes an increase of $33 million for security improvements.