Panel: Judges deserve more protection


Methodist Medical Center

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

By Dori Meinert

Copley News Service
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Senate Appropriations Committee has approved $11.9 million to provide more protection for federal judges in their homes and courthouses in a move prompted by the recent murders of a federal judge's relatives in Chicago.

The money is part of an $80.6 billion emergency spending bill to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The full Senate is expected to approve the bill as early as this week.

Sens. Dick Durbin and Barack Obama, both Democrats from Illinois, urged the committee last week to approve $12 million as requested in a letter from the Judicial Conference of the United States led by Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist. The judges' letter cited the murders of the husband and mother of U.S. District Judge Joan Lefkow in their Chicago home in February and four courtroom shooting deaths in Atlanta in March.

"Unfortunately, at the present time, federal judges across the country are feeling particularly vulnerable, not only for themselves, but also for their families," stated the April 5 letter from the Judicial Conference.

The judges said they want more money for the U.S. Marshal Service, which provides their security, as well as for home intrusion detection systems for all federal judges. There are 2,200 active and semi-retired judges and magistrates in the federal court system.

The Senate Appropriations Committee included the $12 million in the emergency-spending bill last week. From that total, it recommended $2.9 million for additional inspectors to survey judges' homes and other locations outside the courthouses; $2.5 million for protective surveillance activities and equipment at judges' homes and at courthouses; $4.9 million for protective intelligence data gathering; and $1.7 million for the protective intelligence gathering and data analysis.

The House bill passed March 16 includes no additional funding for judicial security.

Durbin, who is a member of the Appropriations Committee, said the Senate bill "will include the necessary funding to prevent cruel and cold-blooded attacks on innocent individuals and on our criminal justice system."

Obama said, "It is our obligation to protect those judges who protect us by upholding the law. Our judges should never worry that doing their jobs will put them at risk."