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Sunday, May 26, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Threats to Federal|Judges Increase

(CN) - Threats to federal judges have more than doubled in the past 6 years, according to a report released by the U.S. Justice Department. Between 2003 and 2008, the number of threats and inappropriate communications to federal judges jumped from 592 to 1,278.

The government defines inappropriate communications as messages that are not explicitly threatening, but cause enough concern to require investigation. The federal court system has more than 2,000 judges and more than 5,000 prosecutors.

The report also details major gaps in reporting and responding to threats. It found that judges and prosecutors do not consistently report the threats they receive, and estimated that up to 25 percent of threats are not reported.

When threats are reported, the report found that U.S. Marshals do not consistently coordinate with local police and many times do not record notifying the FBI of the threats. The U.S. Marshal's database has no record of having notified the FBI of 40 percent of the threats, the report states.

The report states that no federal judges or prosecutors were killed in the 6-year period.

Concern over federal judges' and prosecutors' safety has been growing since the murders of Judge Joan Humphrey Lefkow's mother and husband in 2005. Police say the killer was mad after the judge dismissed his medical malpractice suit in Chicago Federal Court.

Ironically, the report was released shortly before 66-year-old Johnny Lee Wicks walked into a federal building in Las Vegas on Jan. 4 and opened fire. Wicks shot and killed a court security officer and wounded a deputy U.S. Marshal before being shot to death by other officers. Authorities said Wicks was angry over a reduction in his Social Security benefits.

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