The Senate unanimously approved an amended version of the Court Security Improvement Act last night, hoping to reconcile the legislation with a companion House bill before Congress adjourns for its holiday recess. The bipartisan legislation establishes new criminal penalties for the misuse of restricted personal information to threaten or harm judges and their families, witnesses, or court officers. The legislation also includes an additional $20 million per year over the next four years for the U.S. Marshals Service to help improve its protection of federal judges, courthouses, and court personnel.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Ranking Member Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) sponsored the bill. “There is no doubt that there is an urgent need for additional court security, in light of a number of attacks on judges," Specter said in a statement today. "The independence of our judiciary is fundamental in our society for the rule of law.”
The bill, which was first approved by the Senate in April, now includes amendments to reconcile it with a House companion bill that passed in July. The amended Senate bill now goes back to the House for a final vote before being sent to the White House, which has expressed its general support for the legislation. The act still could be approved next year if the final version doesn't pass before the holiday recess.
The murders of U.S. District Judge Joan Lefkow's husband and mother in Chicago by a disgruntled pro se litigant in 2005 spurred the legal community to press Congress for increased judicial security. For more on the legislation and comments from Lefkow, read this Legal Times article.