Plaintiff in pivotal Supreme Court case describes death threats, harassment

Lorie Smith has faced a stream of vitriol so fierce that she is afraid to let her 11-year-old daughter play outside in front of their home by herself.

Lorie Smith has faced a stream of vitriol so fierce that she is afraid to let her 11-year-old daughter play outside in front of their home by herself. (Alliance Defending Freedom)

(The Daily Signal) — United States Supreme Court cases have become fraught with peril for those who differ from leftist ideology: Litigants face potential death threats, protesting, harassment, and “doxxing” (putting their personal information, even their addresses, online to encourage harassment). Justices have faced the same — including at least one attempted assassination.

Following the leak of the draft Supreme Court opinion indicating Roe v. Wade would soon be overturned, Catholic churches and pro-life pregnancy centers faced an onslaught of violent pro-abortion attacks.

Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s family discovered that in the middle of the night, authorities had arrested a man just steps from their home — 26-year-old Nicholas John Roske, who had traveled from California to Maryland with the express intent of killing Kavanaugh and two other justices.

Roske told authorities that his assassination ambitions flared up after he saw the justices’ addresses posted online. Shortly after the leak, the radical pro-abortion group Ruth Sent Us posted the justices’ addresses and began urging protesters to go to the homes of the “six extremist justices” who likely voted for the opinion overturning Roe — Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Amy Coney Barrett, Samuel Alito, Brett Kavanaugh, Clarence Thomas, and Neil Gorsuch.

Far-left protesters from Our Rights DC and Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights joined these groups in targeting the justices’ homes, even though 18 U.S. Code Section 1507 forbids picketing or parading “in or near a building or residence occupied or used by such judge, juror, witness, or court officer” with the intent of intimidating or influencing that person.

And now, following the recent Supreme Court ruling in 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis, Lorie Smith faces a stream of vitriol so fierce that she is afraid to let her 11-year-old daughter play outside in front of their home by herself.

Smith is a graphic designer who owns website design business 303 Creative, and she just achieved a massive victory: The Supreme Court ruled last month that Colorado cannot force her to create designs (in this case, design a website for a same-sex wedding) with which she disagrees. As a Christian, she does not condone same-sex marriages.

She was represented by Alliance Defending Freedom, which called the court’s decision in her case a “landmark victory for free speech.”

But critics were quick to claim that the ruling lacked legitimacy and demanded that reforms be made to the court. Groups like Demand Justice and Take Back the Court claim that the conservative justices are ideological and have “hijacked American democracy.”

These groups strongly advocate for packing the court — adding more justices to the court to change its ideological makeup. They work to mobilize protesters through social media when decisions come down. And they also emphasize the importance of “staying angry.”

“The radical Left’s tactics — targeting Supreme Court justices and litigants — are increasingly thuggish and threaten the rule of law,” JCN President Carrie Severino told The Daily Signal (JCN is an organization dedicated to promoting the U.S. Constitution and protecting the integrity of the court).

Smith shared in an interview with The Daily Signal that she believes “egregious lies” are being spread about the case, herself, and the court’s decision.

“A lot of that has resulted in some of the backlash I’ve received, which, unfortunately, has included things like death threats,” she said.

Smith believes that misinformation in the media is driving a lot of the vitriol. She shared that her business website has seen an “influx of activity” from people angry with the court’s ruling. And she struggles with this because she believes that the court’s ruling doesn’t just protect her, it protects everyone.

“ADF is having to go through a lot of the messages coming through my website because there have been so many … and they’re so vile … I’m at a point where it just makes my skin crawl.”

Smith described the death threats, threats of rape and of bodily harm, and threats to her family as “heartbreaking.”

Most of the people are reiterating “misunderstandings that are being published in the media,” she emphasized — much of it stemming from the fact that she believes in traditional marriage.

“A lot of the threats have alluded to the fact that people have my home address and have posted that address on social media in an effort to encourage others to send hateful messages,” she said. “It’s coming from all angles, really, whether it be phone, email, mail, my website, social media.”

The Daily Signal reached out to the Supreme Court and the U.S. Marshals Service regarding whether the justices have faced similar threats as a result of the 303 Creative decision. Neither the Supreme Court nor the Marshals Service responded to requests for comment.

In March, the Supreme Court asked Congress to increase funding to help protect the justices: $5,897,000 for the “expansion of protective activities,” and a separate increase of $585,000 for new information technology security positions in “cybersecurity, software development, and network engineering.”

“This request would expand security activities conducted by Supreme Court Police to protect the justices,” the protective activities request says before specifically citing the presence of threats to the justices.

“Ongoing threat assessments show evolving risks that require continuous protection,” the request continues. “Additional funding would provide for contract positions, eventually transitioning to full-time employees, that will augment capabilities of the Supreme Court police force and allow it to accomplish its protective mission.”

Asked if she feels safe, Smith responded that though she has seen and read a lot of hatred and very specific threats, she knows that “God is a good God and He has protected us for the last seven years … I hold on to the hope that we will continue to be protected.”

Activist groups spreading misinformation and vitriol about Supreme Court cases like Smith’s “really detract from the significance of what this decision means for all Americans,” Alliance Defending Freedom senior legal counsel Kellie Fiedorek told The Daily Signal.

“They’re desperate attempts to discredit the court, to discredit the attorneys litigating it, and to discredit a client — to discredit Lorie,” Fiedorek said, “all reflecting a complete misunderstanding of the facts and also the significance that what the court said in saying the government can’t force you to say something you don’t believe — that benefits all of us.”

“And really, what the court said was nothing new,” she added. “The law that they applied has been the law that they always applied. They’re just applying it right now in a cultural moment where people disagree very strongly with Lorie’s particular viewpoint. But censorship is dangerous. It’s like a poisonous gas. And when the cultural and political winds change, it can turn around and harm you.”


Mary Margaret Olohan
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Mary Margaret Olohan is a reporter for The Daily Signal.