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May 2009

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


Briefing Addresses Spillover Violence Along Border

The dangers in Mexico and the potential spillover of violence into bordering states have been in the news daily. The Judicial Conference Judicial Security Committee responded by putting together a briefing for judges who work on the southwest border.

Thirty-five judges from the five border judicial districts attended recently in Houston the one-day seminar on the increasing violence across the border in Mexico. Among those participating were Judges Michael Kanne (7th Cir.), chair of the Judicial Security Committee; Henry E. Hudson (E.D. Va.), chair of the Off-site Security Subcommittee; and Nancy Atlas (S.D. Tex.), chair of the On-site Security Subcommittee.

With Committee input, the U.S. Marshals Service (USMS) took the lead in planning the agenda and arranged for the primary presentation by the El Paso Intelligence Center (EPIC). Staff from EPIC, a multiagency tactical intelligence center supported by databases and resources from member agencies, briefed judges on violence along the U.S.-Mexico border.

“The USMS was fully responsive to our needs, and they suggested EPIC’s participation,” said Kanne. “We had a briefing in the morning by the folks from EPIC and in the afternoon by the U.S. Marshals Service, which covered individual protective measures.”

“The purpose of the briefings,” said Atlas, “was first and foremost to educate judges about the causes and the degree of border violence in Mexico, how the current situation compares historically to drug cartel violence in prior periods, and its possible spillover implications for U.S. judicial security.”

“There has been so much media coverage about violence along the border that many of the judges had formed impressions that perhaps needed to be calibrated against reality,” said Hudson. “EPIC personnel who have followed the cartels for over three decades were able to give us an insider’s view of how the cartels work and a realistic assessment of the threat level. This will form the foundation for the Judicial Security Committee’s recommendations.”

Hudson said that “while there is no immediate threat against any judge as a result of the cartels, we cautioned judges that they need to have a heightened sense of awareness. They need to take all the precautions that judges have employed over the years to ensure that they and their families aren’t the target of any kind of aggressive action.”

As an outcome of the seminar, the Judicial Security Committee is developing a security plan which, if funded and implemented, will provide increased levels of protection for judges along the border.