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February 2006

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This article is in the news archives --- for current news go to the Third Branch News.


Judicial Security Outside the Courthouse to Improve

Nearly a year after the murder of Judge Joan Lefkow’s husband and mother in her Chicago home, a program to provide all federal judges with increased judicial security outside of courthouse facilities finally is materializing. A national contract to install home intrusion detection systems in the homes of federal judges was awarded by the U.S. Marshals Service in December 2005, and installations began in February 2006. The USMS has agreed to pay monitoring and maintenance charges on the new systems for fiscal year 2006, and to seek funding for subsequent years.

“Threats and attacks against judges strike at the core of our system of justice,” said Judge David Sentelle (D.C. Cir.), chair of the Judicial Conference Committee on Security. “Judges must be free to make judicial decisions without the fear of physical harm to themselves or to members of their families. With the resources Congress has given them, the U.S. Marshals Service can better protect federal judges and their families.”

In April 2005, Administrative Office Director Leonidas Ralph Mecham told the President and Congressional leaders that the murders of the Lefkow family members and the killings at a county courthouse in Atlanta, Georgia, “have left judges feeling particularly vulnerable, not only for themselves, but also for their families.” The AO called on Congress to provide immediate funding for a comprehensive package of off-site security enhancements.

In May 2005, the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act for Defense, the Global War on Terror, and Tsunami Relief, 2005, became law, giving the U.S. Marshals Service $11.9 million, requested by the AO, “for increased judicial security outside of courthouse facilities, including priority consideration of home intrusion detection systems in the homes of federal judges.”

In its conference report on the bill, the Senate Appropriations Committee said, “Recent events prove a need for increased judicial security, including outside courthouse facilities, which falls under the jurisdiction of the USMS. The Committee believes the USMS should reevaluate existing policies governing when and whether suspicious threats and inappropriate communications demand judicial protection. The Committee also recommends funding increases to enhance the USMS’s ability to assess and respond to such threats, including funding for off-site security enhancements such as home intrusion detection systems.”

The funding will be used to procure and install alarm systems for federal judges. It also will pay for judicial protective details and other judicial security measures employed by the USMS to investigate and counter threats to judges. Those measures include staffing for the USMS’s Office of Protective Intelligence and its threat assessment capabilities.