Annual Meeting

Impact of trauma on judges, their families and court staff should be studied, ABA House says

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Judge Esther Salas

United States District Court Judge Esther Salas delivers remarks alongside her husband Mark Anderl, United States Senator Bob Menendez and United States Senator Cory Booker at a news conference in Newark, New Jersey, United States on December 19, 2022. (Photo By Kyle Mazza/Sipa USA)(Sipa via AP Images)

At the ABA Annual Meeting in Denver on Tuesday, the House of Delegates supported a resolution encouraging judicial leaders to study the impact of trauma on judges, their families and staff and recommend steps to improve their safety and mental wellness.

Resolution 200, sponsored by the Judicial Division, urges training allowing judges and their families to seek treatment for mental health while mitigating the chance of security breaches. The National Conference of State Trial Judges co-sponsored the resolution. It passed unanimously.

The resolution follows the 2022 arrest of an armed man in Chevy Chase, Maryland, who is accused of attempting to kill U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

“Threats and attacks on judges and their families have been on the increase in this country,” said Toni E. Clarke, a delegate for the National Conference of State Trial Judges, while introducing the resolution. “Unfortunately, it does not stop with judges.”

In 2020, a disgruntled attorney shot the husband of U.S. District Judge Esther Salas and killed her son in their New Jersey home.

In 2021, the House of Delegates supported the Daniel Anderl Judicial Security and Privacy Act, later passed by Congress with bipartisan support. That act makes it more difficult for violent individuals to find judges’ addresses and personal information online.

Follow along with the ABA Journal’s coverage of the 2023 ABA Annual Meeting here.

Jonathan Shirts, a delegate representing the Idaho State Bar, emphasized the need to extend support to all courthouse staff.

“A judge is not siloed, [and conversations impact] every single person in the courthouse from the court reporters to the janitor,” he said. “Can a bailiff be even 90% effective if she cannot stop thinking about the trial previous with the witness in the child sex case, on top of the divorce papers that were signed?” he asked. “Do we think about the court reporters who might be sitting right in between the judge and any potential threats? Do we think about the law clerks and the staff attorneys who might be reading everything the judge is reading?”

In 2005, the House of Delegates passed a resolution calling on Congress and the Department of Justice to review whether existing laws were sufficient to protect the safety of everyone involved in the judicial process.

See also: “SCOTUS justices became ‘targets for assassination’ after leak of abortion opinion, Alito says” “Armed man accused of threatening Kavanaugh is arrested near justice’s home” “Federal judge’s son killed, her lawyer husband wounded in shooting at their home”

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