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New Committee Attuned to Security Concerns
Judge David B. Sentelle was appointed chair of the new Judicial
Conference Committee on Judicial Security in 2005. In his career, Sentelle has
served as an assistant U.S. attorney, a state court judge on the North Carolina
General Courts of Justice, a federal district judge in the Western District of
North Carolina, and since 1987, he has been a judge on the U. S. Court of
Appeals for the District of Columbia.
Q: The Judicial Conference Committee on Judicial Security
is the newest Conference committee. Why was the Committee formed?
A: The Judicial Conference, in 2005 after the murders of
the Lefkow family, declared an emergency in judicial security and established
this Committee dedicated solely to ensuring that the courts and judges are
provided with adequate security.
Q: The jurisdiction
statement for your Committee includes responsibility for coordinating the
Judiciary’s Emergency Preparedness Program and for Internet security. Can you
talk about what responsibility for these areas will entail?
A: Emergency Preparedness, of course, came to our full
attention because disasters like Hurricane Katrina create the same sort of
emergencies for judicial life and limb and for personnel and facilities as
judicial security problems in general. We think that in order to prevent
security dangers from arising from those types of disasters, every court needs
an emergency disaster plan in place. For example, the Eastern District of
Louisiana did a great job in the horrible emergency they had in the aftermath of
Hurricane Katrina. There ought to be plans in place and we want to encourage and
assist in that sort of preparation.
The Internet—while in a sense a technology issue—still exposes judges and
their families to security concerns. It’s scary how much you can find out about
yourself or someone else on the Internet. We thought it was necessary to begin
an educational initiative—including selfhelp steps judges can take to protect
themselves—and also to explore state and federal legislative remedies to help
judges and everyone else protect their private information on the Internet.
I caution that we are not going to find an easy way to keep personal
information off the Internet or remove it once it’s there. There is going to be
no easy or perfect way, but we will try to help the judges, as much as possible,
in keeping their personal information private.
Q: How do judges and the court family learn about
A: First thing, when anybody is nominated for a
judgeship, they receive a joint briefing from the U.S. Marshals Service and
Administrative Office security personnel as part of the confirmation preparation
process. But the best way—or the most persuasive way—in which new judges are
going to learn about security will be from current judges and court personnel.
If a court’s current judges are actively engaged in security, then the new
judges will learn from them. If not, then they’ll learn sloppy practices. We
need to get everybody attuned to security concerns, in order to keep it passing
from generation to generation.
Our Committee works with the AO and the U.S. Marshals Service on initiatives
to make security information readily available. We have used, and will continue
to use, the Federal Judicial Television Network. We are overseeing the
production of a new security orientation video to be shown to judicial nominees
when they’re in Washington. And we hope to use something similar with reference
to communication to the circuit judicial conferences and other meetings of
judges around the country.
Q: A program to install home intrusion detection systems
in the homes of federal judges will provide increased judicial security outside
of courthouse facilities. A national contract to install the systems was awarded
by the U.S. Marshals Service in December 2005, and installations began in
February 2006. What is the status of the home intrusion detection systems
A: The U.S. Marshals Service tells us they’ve installed
97 percent of the 1,584 systems that were requested, so we feel like we’re in
good shape on that. This has not gone without problems. It’s just a big task,
but I think it’s going well. We hope to have the remaining 3 percent installed
during this fiscal year. Funds are included in the U.S. Marshals Service budget
to continue the program through FY 2008 for newly appointed judges and for
judges who change residences.
The actual installation and physical monitoring is done by a U.S. Marshal
Service contractor, and the Marshals Service is the interface between the
contractor and the judge.
Q: How does your Committee interact with the U.S.
A: We’re on very good terms with the U.S. Marshals
Service at the present time. John Clark, the current director, has been very
cooperative. He is an experienced U.S. Marshal Service employee who has been a
chief deputy and a U.S. Marshal himself. And he has been in close touch with the
Committee. We invite him and he attends our biannual meetings. We jointly
testified before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and
Homeland Security on H.R. 660, the “Court Security Improvement Act of 2007.” He
and I stay in touch in between meetings by phone and email on a very regular
basis. He has been very attuned to our concerns and has tried very hard to meet
Q: During the Judiciary’s Senate appropriations hearing,
the Judicial Conference representative was asked to comment on reports that
perimeter security provided by the Federal Protective Service (FPS) has not been
maintained or repaired in courthouses. Is there a problem with FPS, and if so,
how is the Judiciary resolving it?
A: We are trying to work with Senator Richard Durbin
(DIL), who asked the question, and with other members of Congress. We really
haven’t been satisfied with the service received from the FPS since they were
transferred from the General Services Administration to the Department of
Homeland Security. And they have their own problems of acclimation.
But, you know, they don’t receive an appropriation from Congress. They rely
on reimbursements from tenant agencies and they’re not very forthcoming as to
what it is we’re paying for. We’re not, in every instance, getting what we’re
paying for. FPS has been unable to repair or replace some perimeter security
cameras and monitors due to insufficient resources. We’ve had vulnerable
courthouses for that reason. The U.S. Marshals Service has had to replace the
equipment even though it’s not their responsibility or in their budget.
We’ve addressed these concerns by endorsing, and the Judicial Conference has
adopted, a recommendation that the FPS be made a direct appropriation agency and
that the U.S. Marshals Service, by administrative or legislative means, assume
the FPS security functions in primary courthouses. That would not help us in
multi-tenant federal buildings, but at least it would solve some of the
problems. The U.S. Marshals Service has proposed a pilot program of seven
primary courthouses to test the feasibility of them assuming these functions. I
don’t know how much of the pilot program will go into effect, but at least we’ll
have something to work with in having the U.S. Marshals Service take over a lot
of the FPS functions.
Senator Durbin, as chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on
Financial Services and General Government has met with AO Director Duff and the
directors of the U.S. Marshals Service and the FPS. He’s been a lot of help to
us and we have hopes of improving the situation.
Q: The Federal Protective Service, Court Security
Officers (CSOs), USMS—how do these all interrelate in providing security to the
A: It’s going to vary between primary courthouses and
multi-tenant buildings, as to the FPS’s responsibility. But historically, at
your primary courthouse the FPS responsibility is principally for the perimeter
and the U.S. Marshals Service—working either directly with or through the
CSOs—is responsible more for the interior security. Over time, however, we have
seen the U.S. Marshals Service play a greater role in providing all security
services at primary courthouses.
Q: A system of court security committees operates at the
local court level. How do these committees interact with your Conference
A: The court security committees were established in the
early 1980s. I think it was a 1982 recommendation contained in the report of the
Attorney General’s Task Force on Judicial Security. The court security
committees are responsible for assessing security districtwide. The chief
district judge chairs the committee. The district’s U.S. Marshal is the
Court security committees are associated with primary courthouses— that is
where the court, U.S. attorney’s office and/or U.S. Marshals Service occupy
three-quarters of the rentable square footage of the building. We hear
anecdotally that some of the district committees are very active and engaged;
others either don’t meet or only rarely meet. We encourage the use of the
district court security committees as liaison with the district’s U.S. Marshal
and for dealing with district problems. We get some contacts that probably
really ought to be handled within the district, so we encourage their use.
Q: Your Committee recently endorsed Judiciary
participation in the Homeland Security Presidential Directive-12. What is this
Directive and what will participation mean for the Judiciary?
A: The Homeland Security Presidential Directive (HSPD-12)
is an executive branch initiative that establishes a mandatory government-wide
standard for security and reliable forms of identification cards—the personal
identity verification card, PIV-ID in governmentspeak—that would be issued by
the government to its employees and contractors, initially for identification
purposes and eventually to gain access to government buildings. We are housed in
federally controlled facilities, so although the directive does not cover us, if
we don’t find a way to cooperate with it, we’re going to find ourselves shut out
of the buildings we work in. We budgeted funds to provide the same kind of
PIV-ID cards to judges and court personnel to comply with HSPD-12, even though
we’re not covered by it.
Q: In your opinion, what is the greatest problem we face
in terms of judicial security?
A: It’s very difficult to identify one problem. So we’ve
created a Subcommittee on Strategic and Long-Range Planning to identify the
areas where we need to assess the current security of the Judiciary, to
determine where the Judiciary needs to be headed in the next 10 years, and how
to accomplish that goal. They are interfacing with the U.S. Marshals Service and
they’re also available for contact with any other source.
So, rather than identify a single problem, I would say we have a subcommittee
working on that.