WASHINGTON –– For the second time in 11 months, opponents of Supreme Court rulings lifting limits on money in political campaigns briefly disrupted proceedings in the courtroom and embarrassed the court by managing to get a camera past court security.
Supreme Court police arrested seven people who rose shortly after the justices took the bench and shouted brief statements. “One person, one vote,” said one protester.
Clayton appears to have made it past stepped-up security screening by court police officers. The new checks were put in place after the protest group 99Rise posted video of a February 2014 courtroom protest on the Internet. The Supreme Court does not allow cameras or audio recording devices in the courtroom. At times, court police check the belts, pens and even wallets of people seeking to enter the courtroom. Not even lawyers about to argue cases are spared the enhanced screening.
Newkirk suggested in an email that more than one person had a camera on Wednesday and promised to post footage online.
Those arrested were charged with conspiracy-related offenses arising from the courtroom disturbance, Arberg said. Seven of the eight also were charged with violating a law against making “a harangue or oration, or uttering loud, threatening, or abusive language in the Supreme Court Building,” Arberg said.
Obama refrained from criticizing the decision or the court at his State of the Union address the night before. Five years earlier, Obama used the speech to chide the court as Chief Justice John Roberts and most of his colleagues sat impassively in their customary places in the front rows of the House of Representatives. Justice Samuel Alito made headlines when he was captured on camera mouthing the words “not true” in response to some of Obama’s criticism.
After the protest and arguments in an important housing discrimination case, the justices spent an hour chewing over an appropriate way to regulate police use of dogs that sniff for drugs during traffic stops when officers have no reasonable suspicion that a vehicle contains drugs. The case seems to come down to how long police may extend a traffic stop to conduct the dog sniff, without violating the constitutional rights of the occupants of the car.
“Keeping me past giving me the ticket is annoying as heck whether it’s 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 45,” Justice Sonia Sotomayor said.
Roberts, with a bit of a wink and a nod, did not acknowledge having himself been stopped by police, but he said he knows people who have been.
Laughter filled the courtroom and it seemed no one laughed louder than Justice Antonin Scalia, sitting next to the chief justice.