Representative Norton, SCOTUS Marshal Gaiul A. Curley and SCOTUS Chief of Police Paul Coleman, and ANC6A Commissioner Christine Healey.
SCOTUS Security Pushes into A Street, NE, Vexing Neighbors – Rep. Norton Hears Residents Fault SCOTUS Security for Quality of Life Issues
by Larry Janezich
On January 12, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton chaired a virtual community meeting on SCOTUS security’s temporary and occasional closure to traffic of the 200 block of A Street, NE.
In 2006, when the Supreme Court sought a DDOT permit to erect a pop-up traffic barrier in the middle of the 200 block of A Street, SE, DDOT said no. The reasons for denying the request were residents’ opposition to the noisy operation of the barrier, the impact on access to their homes, an adverse effect on property values, and the feeling of residents that they were being used as “human shields” against drivers of explosive-laden vehicles intent on attacking the court.
So the Supreme Court, citing its authority to protect the court and its officials, started closing the street on days the Supreme Court was in session and on days the justices were conferencing – some 8 to 12 days a month from 9:45am to 2:00pm. The method used was a difficult-to –move (fork lift) temporary pop up barrier placed half way down the block of A Street, NE, between 2nd and 3rd Streets, a barrier which is lowered at resident or delivery truck driver request.
Neighbors complained to ANC6A Commissioner Christine Healey and Representative Norton, which resulted in the unusual community meeting hosted by Norton. At the meeting’s start, Norton emphasized her long commitment to keeping public space in DC open and her deep concern regarding fencing and security measures altering access to public buildings. The panel assembled to discussion the issue, included the Marshal and the Chief of Police of the Supreme Court; Everett Lott, Director of DDOT; and Matthew Marcou, Associate Director, DDOT; and ANC6C01 Commissioner Christine Healey.
SCOTUS security officials stressed the efforts they have taken to address the neighbors’ concerns and say that many of those concerns could be resolved by installation of an in-ground pop up barrier, which, presumably, could be left in the down position, like the pop-up barriers on the north and south ends of the block of 2nd Street behind the court. This would seem to facilitate resolution of access issues, but Healey said there would continue to be a noise issue caused by vehicles driving across the barrier.
Residents, seemingly, also oppose an in-ground pop up barrier for other reasons cited in their 2006 opposition to an in-ground pop up barrier – the feeling they would be used as “human shields” to protect the court and the effect on property values.
The SCOTUS security team says they don’t think they need DDOT permission to install a pop-up barrier and the court’s “lawyers will take a look at it.” DDOT is calling for an assessment of the SCOTUS operational security plan to find the best path forward for DC to help protect the Supreme Court.
The SCOTUS Marshal said a safer court means a safer neighborhood, reminding residents that “we’re all in this together.”
Norton concluded the meeting urging continued communication among the stakeholders, saying she believes “we are on the way to find whatever solution can be found.” She assured residents that her office would make sure the community is informed of progress being made.