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Facilities and Security – Annual Report 2021

Committed to efficiency, safety, and cost containment, the Judiciary responds in a coordinated way to emergencies while also working with the General Services Administration to replace outmoded courthouses with modern, secure facilities.

Judicial and Courthouse Security

Judge Salas with NJ Senators

Judge Esther Salas, of the District of New Jersey, speaks with reporters on Capitol Hill. Flanking her are New Jersey Sens. Bob Menendez and Cory Booker, who introduced the judicial security legislation. At far right is Salas’ husband, attorney Mark Anderl, who was wounded in the attack on the Salas home.

Since July 2020, when New Jersey District Judge Esther Salas’ son was killed and her husband seriously wounded by a gunman at their home, the Judiciary has been engaged in a concerted effort to upgrade, expand, and better fund security for federal judges.

Throughout 2021, Judiciary leaders pushed for passage of the Daniel Anderl Judicial Security and Privacy Act, named for Judge Salas’ son. The bill would protect judges’ personally identifiable information (PII) in federal databases and restrict data aggregators from reselling judges’ personal information. Currently, the information often is available at little or no cost. The legislation would also improve the courts’ ability to monitor and react to internet threats and provide enhanced training for judges in security best practices.

The bill was reintroduced in July 2021 by New Jersey Democratic Senators Bob Menendez and Cory Booker after a similar bill garnered bipartisan congressional support but failed to secure passage the previous year. Additional co-sponsors were Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin (D-IL), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and several other senators. Representatives Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ) and Brian K. Fitzpatrick (R-PA) sponsored a companion bill in the House.

The bill was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Dec. 2, 2021, by a 21-0 vote with one senator voting present.

“Our constitutional system depends on an independent Judiciary,” Judge Roslynn R. Mauskopf, Director of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts (AO), said when the bill was reintroduced. “Judges must be able to make decisions without fear of reprisal or retribution. This is essential not just for the safety of judges and their families, but also to protect our democracy.”

There has been a sharp rise in threats and inappropriate communications against federal judges and other court personnel, from 926 incidents in 2015 to 4,261 in 2020, according to the U.S. Marshals Service (USMS). Some cases have involved litigants angered by a judge’s decision in a case. The home addresses of judges handling controversial cases have been circulated on social media.

Salas’ son was murdered on July 19, 2020, by a lawyer who came to her house posing as a delivery courier. Her husband was critically wounded in the attack. The assailant, angered by the judge’s handling of his lawsuit, acquired her address and photos of her home and vehicles on the internet.

Since 1979, four federal judges have been murdered. In two other cases, including the fatal shooting of Salas’ son, relatives were murdered during attacks that targeted federal judges in their homes.

Courthouses also have been targeted. Civil unrest in 2020 resulted in damage to over 50 courthouses across the country, a sustained attack on the courthouse in Portland, OR, and the violent breach of the U.S. Capitol. Two security employees were shot near courthouses, one fatally.

In addition to the legislation addressing judges’ personally identifiable information, the Judiciary pressed Congress throughout 2021 to provide funding for additional steps, including:

Acting on behalf of the Judiciary, Judge Mauskopf and Judge John W. Lungstrum, then Chair of the Judicial Conference’s Budget Committee, voiced strong concern when judicial security funding was left out of the Emergency Security Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021, which Congress passed in response to the Jan. 6 Capitol attack and for other purposes. The judicial security funding had been included in earlier iterations of the bill. Their letter (pdf) was sent to the House and Senate leadership, and to leaders of the House and Senate Appropriations Committee.

The Judiciary also requested security funding as part of its $1.54 billion infrastructure request in 2021. However, the funding was not included in the final infrastructure bill.

In other security-related initiatives:


In the spring of 2021, the AO began national deployment of JSPACE, a new real estate portfolio and facilities management software system. JSPACE allows the courts to integrate rent bills, space assignments, contract documents, and information about people into a single, comprehensive system. The first wave of deployment included the Third, Ninth, and D.C. circuits. Deployment to the remaining circuits and districts will begin in FY 2022. Future functionalities under consideration include facility project management, strategic facilities planning, and asset management.

New Courthouse Construction

At its September meeting, the Judicial Conference approved its FY 2023 Federal Judiciary Courthouse Project Priorities (CPP) list, which identifies priorities for new courthouse construction. A federal facility in San Juan, Puerto Rico, was prioritized as a judicial space emergency above all new construction projects because of earthquake risks. A $262 million seismic retrofit is planned for the Federico Degetau Federal Building. The Degetau Federal Building and the Clemente Ruiz Nazario U.S. Courthouse compose the Hato Rey Federal Court Complex.

Courthouses in Hartford, CT, and Chattanooga, TN, were also on the list. These projects received partial funding from Congress in FY 2021, including $135.5 million for Hartford and $94.6 million for Chattanooga. In FY 2022, the Judiciary asked Congress for $294 million to complete the projects as well as for funds for the Puerto Rico courthouse. Courthouse projects in the following cities were identified as out-year priorities on the CPP list: Bowling Green, KY; Anchorage, AK; McAllen, TX; Greensboro/Winston-Salem, NC; and Norfolk, VA.

The AO is managing and supporting multiple courthouse construction projects that were funded previously by Congress, as part of the appropriations bills for FY 2016 and FY 2018. The General Services Administration (GSA) received approximately $1.4 billion for 11 projects identified on the CPP list. They are located in Nashville, TN; Toledo, OH; Charlotte, NC; Des Moines, IA; Greenville, SC; Anniston, AL; Savannah, GA; San Antonio, TX; Harrisburg, PA; Huntsville, AL; and Fort Lauderdale, FL. The GSA also received $53 million in FY 2016 to build a new courthouse in Greenville, MS, and to purchase a courthouse in Rutland, VT.

The Charlotte, Savannah, and Greenville projects were finished in FY 2021. The Nashville project was nearly complete by year’s end. The courthouse in San Antonio was scheduled to be completed in January 2022 and the courthouse in Anniston in March 2022. The Rutland courthouse acquisition was completed in 2018.

The federal courthouse construction program is administered jointly by the Judiciary and the GSA. The Judiciary establishes priorities for courthouse construction projects and sets the housing requirements for each project to ensure that completed facilities meet the needs of the courts. The GSA secures the funding for construction, acquires the building site, and completes design and construction work on the facilities. The Judiciary annually identifies potential locations for new construction, annexes, and major renovations of courthouses that have the most urgent space needs in the CPP list.

The Judiciary’s FY 2022 budget request included $78 million to address security deficiencies at court facilities in Augusta, GA; Fort Wayne, IN; Burlington, VT; and Hattiesburg, MS.

Emergency Preparedness

During 2021, the AO assisted with emergency efforts in courts affected by extreme weather, including those hit by Hurricane Ida in late August. Staff also worked with courts on COVID-19 mitigation and reopening measures and on their emergency preparedness plans, which covered topics such as business and operations continuity.

There were no major natural disaster-related disruptions of Judiciary operations in 2021. The AO’s Judiciary Emergency Response Team monitored 80 natural disasters, including hurricanes, floods, and fires, and also worked with the courts on other infrastructure issues. It facilitated coordination with affected courts and partner agencies to restore operations, repair facilities, and relocate operations as necessary. It also helped facilitate the placement of temporary fencing around a Western District of Virginia courthouse because of potential protests associated with a civil trial in Charlottesville.

The AO’s Judiciary Disaster and Recovery Tool Project, which is in the second year of a five-year development, supported these efforts through real-time analyses of federal, state, and privately sourced information.