Judges Concerned for Safety as Threats Against Them Grow

June 17, 2022 by Tom Ramstack
Judges Concerned for Safety as Threats Against Them Grow
A U.S. marshal patrols outside the home of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, in Chevy Chase, Md., June 8, 2022. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)

WASHINGTON — A panel of judges at an American Bar Association conference said Thursday that Congress should act quickly to ensure their safety amid growing threats.

Panelists during a webinar based in Washington said the ability of the judiciary to maintain law and order is at risk without better protection.

If judges are too afraid to enforce laws out of fear for their families, democracy is threatened, said Judge Nannette Jolivette Brown, chief judge for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana.

Security incidents against federal judges rose 89% between 2016 and 2019, according to a recent audit by the Justice Department’s inspector general.


The concerns are heightened by an expected Supreme Court ruling within as little as a few days that could overturn a federal right to abortion. A draft copy of the ruling leaked to the media shows the supermajority of conservative justices would make abortion rights a matter of discretion for each state.

Thirteen states plan to ban all abortions. Another 13 plan stiff restrictions.

Protests and threats that already have erupted since the draft ruling was published May 2 by Politico indicate protesters could become violent.

As a result, the U.S. House of Representatives gave final congressional approval Tuesday to a bill to expand police protection for the families of Supreme Court justices and senior officers of the court.

The legislation won approval in the Senate. President Biden will sign it into law, a White House statement said.

More action to protect judges is likely soon in Congress as it considers the Daniel Anderl Judicial Security and Privacy Act of 2021, named for the murdered son of New Jersey federal Judge Esther Salas.


It authorizes funding for the federal judiciary to monitor and assess online threats, investigate complaints and address acts of aggression. It would allow the U.S. Marshals Service to hire additional staff to enforce the proposed law.

“What happened to Judge Salas and her husband was a heartbreaking tragedy. No judge should have to fear for their safety, or the safety of their families, because of public service to our country,” said Rep. Mikie Sherrill, D-N.J., who co-sponsored the bill.

A Senate vote on it was blocked Thursday by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who said the final bill should include his proposed amendment to add data privacy protections for members of Congress.

Republican senators are calling on the Justice Department for vigorous prosecution of persons who threaten judges weeks after a Wisconsin judge was murdered in his home and days after a man was arrested after planning to kill Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

A letter they wrote this week to Attorney General Merrick Garland said, “We continue to be baffled over the lack of prosecutions under Title 18, Section 1507 of the U.S. Code. We understand it is the policy of the Justice Department not to discuss any pending or potential investigations, but this is an urgent matter of national importance.”

Title 18, Section 1507 is a federal law that makes protests illegal near buildings or residences of judges with the intent of influencing them. The law is supposed to preserve judicial independence.

Signatories of the letter included top Republican senators, such John Kennedy of Louisiana, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Chuck Grassley of Iowa.

In fiscal 2021, the U.S. Marshals Service investigated more than 1,300 threats against judges and court personnel, according to the American Bar Association. The number tripled in the past two years, according to the Marshals Service’s 2021 annual report.


The National Judicial College reported recently that 90% of judges believe the judiciary’s independence is threatened. Fifty-eight percent said they fear for their lives while 45% said they suffer job-related secondary traumatic stress.

Tom can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @tramstack.

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June 17, 2022
by Tom Ramstack
Judges Concerned for Safety as Threats Against Them Grow

WASHINGTON — A panel of judges at an American Bar Association conference said Thursday that Congress should act quickly to... Read More

WASHINGTON — A panel of judges at an American Bar Association conference said Thursday that Congress should act quickly to ensure their safety amid growing threats. Panelists during a webinar based in Washington said the ability of the judiciary to maintain law and order is at... Read More

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