Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer's encounter with a machete-wielding robber at his vacation home in Nevis Feb. 9 resurrects the perennial question of how much security protection justices should have.
According to a local press report from the Caribbean island, Breyer was confronted after 10 p.m. by a masked intruder at his home where he was staying with his wife and unnamed houseguests. The robber fled with about $1,200, and no one was injured. The press report also indicated that it is customary for Nevis police to be alerted when Breyer is on the island, but it was unknown whether any security was provided. An ABC News report said it did not appear Breyer was targeted specifically but may have been the victim of a random robbery. The Court confirmed the incident today.
Breyer, 73, who also has a summer home in New Hampshire, has long listed a home in Nevis among his assets as a "rental property" worth between $100,001 and $250,000 on his financial disclosure form.
The last time a member of the Supreme Court had a personal run-in with crime was in 2004, when then-Justice David Souter was mugged while jogging near his home in Washington. At that time, Supreme Court police officers interviewed with the promise of anonymity said justices often reject their offers of more security, asserting that their relative anonymity, even in the nation's capital, was their best defense against harm. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was robbed in 1996 while walking near the Kennedy Center in D.C.
Court officials always decline to discuss security arrangements for the justices. But when they are at public events in the D.C. area, justices are typically accompanied by Supreme Court police; when they are in the rest of the country, officers from the local U.S. marshal's office are seen providing security. When they travel abroad, security appears to be handled through the U.S. embassy at their destination.