Security Worries Spur Some Judges to Pack Heat, Use 24-Hour Guards
Posted May 26, 2009 6:12 AM CST
By Debra Cassens Weiss
Judge Sibley Reynolds of Alabama carries a Colt automatic pistol under his judicial robes, tucked inside his waistband.
The state court judge starting packing heat after receiving threats last year from the son of a defendant who was convicted of stealing about $3,000 from a humane shelter, the Washington Post reports. "I don't go anywhere without my security with me," Reynolds told the newspaper.
U.S. District Judge John Roll was put under 24-hour armed guard after receiving death threats over his ruling allowing a lawsuit by illegal immigrants against a rancher. Deputies guarded Roll’s home outside Tucscon and accompanied him to court, the gym and Mass. "Some deputies went to church more in a week than they had in their lives," David Gonzales, the U.S. marshal in Arizona, said in an interview with the Post.
Reynolds and Roll are among the judges who are stepping up safety measures after two high-profile incidents in 2005: A disgruntled litigant killed the husband and mother of U.S. District Judge Joan Lefkow in their Chicago home, and an Atlanta rape suspect killed a judge, the court stenographer and a deputy.
The number of judges carrying guns is not known, the Post says, but most federal judges now have home security systems installed by U.S. marshals. Many judges are also removing their photos from court websites, changing the routes they take to work, and keeping their home addresses private by paying bills at the courthouse or deciding not to register to vote. Threats are tracked by about 25 U.S. marshals staffing a new high-tech "threat management" center.
In the last six years, threats and harassing communications made against federal court personnel have increased from 592 to 1,278. Federal officials say the increase is due to defendants whose anger is stoked by the Internet, cases involving violent gang offenders, frustration over the economic downturn, and the “sovereign citizen” movement of white supremacists and tax protesters, according to the story.