U.S. District Judge Joan Lefkow, whose husband and mother were murdered in 2005 by a disgruntled plaintiff whose case she had dismissed, urged other judges at an ABA panel on judicial security to consider adding to their home security--an option she and her husband considered and decided against due to the cost.
“I’ve gone over in my mind so many times how things could have been done differently,” said Lefkow, who now lives in a high-rise building that has 24-hour security and valet service. She said she couldn’t continue living in the three-story house on Chicago’s northside where her family members were killed.
The ABA panel this afternoon began with a video produced by the U.S. Marshals Service, which protects federal judges nationwide. Lefkow sat quietly as the video showed TV news clips reporting the murders in her family. Both the video and advocacy by judges, including Lefkow, have helped the Marshals Service persuade more judges to get security, said panelist Mike Prout, assistant director for judicial security in the Marshals Service.
While the number of incidents against judges hasn’t necessarily increased in recent years, the intensity of the violence has, warned Gary Schenkel, director of the Federal Protective Service at the Department of Homeland Security.
Lefkow denounced the rise of “hate-mongering” by people who now have Web sites to spread their violent views, saying she believes it has fueled some of the threats against judges. She described the case of Internet talk show host Hal Turner, who was pleaded not guilty last month to making threats against three of Lefkow’s fellow federal judges who sit on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit. Turner was unhappy with a decision by the appeals court that allowed a Chicago handgun ban to stand.
Lefkow read from the federal complaint against Turner, giving his description of the “slaughter” of her family that he said apparently wasn’t enough of a message to federal judges in Chicago.
“We’re probably all saying to ourselves, ‘Well, is that enough to constitute a threat under the law?’ and I honestly don’t know,” she said just before reading the relevant statute out loud. “I don’t know if that’s a threat or not.”