May 31, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Judges urge lawmakers to bolster judicial security after threats surge

A screenshot of Judge Esther Salas on CBS' "60 Minutes."
A screenshot of Judge Esther Salas on CBS' "60 Minutes" Sunday. Photo: CBS

U.S. District Court Judge Esther Salas, whose son was killed and husband wounded in an attack meant for her, is leading calls for the Senate to pass a bill to bolster judicial security.

Why it matters: Threats to federal judges have increased 400% in the past five years. There were some 4,200 threats against federal judges last year, per CBS' "60 Minutes."

  • The House-passed Capitol Security Bill would allocate $157.5 million for judicial security, including security cameras and 1,000 additional deputy marshals. 
  • "The last judicial security upgrade was 15 years ago — after Chicago Judge Joan Lefkow came home one night and found her husband and mother shot dead by a disgruntled plaintiff," CBS reports.

Driving the news: "60 Minutes" interviewed Salas and U.S. District Judge James Robart, who received death threats online after temporarily halting former President Trump's first travel ban targeting Muslim-majority nations.

  • Salas is calling for judges' personal details to be removed from the internet, noting to CBS' Bill Whitaker that the FBI found a locker in New Jersey belonging to her son's killer containing weapons and a "manila folder with a workup" on Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. 
  • "This fact has to wake us up," said Salas, who now has 24/7 protection from U.S. marshals.

Of note: Robart received over 40,000 messages after Trump posted a tweet calling him a "so-called judge" — prompting an investigation and U.S. marshals to be deployed to his house, he told Whitaker.

  • Suzanne Spaulding, the former head of cybersecurity operations in Democratic and Republican administrations, told Whitaker that thousands of the threats originated from Russia.
  • If Russian President Vladimir Putin "can undermine a significant segment of the population's willingness to accept a court's decision, then he can cause chaos in this country," she said.
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