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March 27, 2024

Federal Judiciary Seeks More Money for Security Amid Rise in Threats

The U.S. Supreme Court is requesting $19.4 million to expand security and transfer responsibility for protecting justices’ homes to their police force

The U.S. Supreme Court is requesting $19.4 million to expand security and transfer responsibility for protecting justices’ homes to their police force

This article was originally published on abajournal.com.

The federal judiciary is citing “evolving” risks and a “significant increase in threats against federal judges” as some of the reasons for a requested increase in its security budget.

The U.S. Supreme Court is requesting $19.4 million to expand security and transfer responsibility for protecting justices’ homes to the high court’s own police force, Reuters reports.

The security budget request for other federal judges has increased by $39.5 million to cover “additional security and equipment” and other security needs, according to the fiscal year 2025 budget request.

The request comes amid a Reuters investigation published last week that found an “unprecedented wave of threats” in cases related to former President Donald Trump.

According to the wire service, the annual average of harassing and threatening communications directed at federal judges, federal prosecutors, judicial staff and court buildings increased from 1,180 incidents in the decade before Trump’s 2015 presidential campaign to 3,810 in seven years that followed.

Trump is a defendant in four criminal cases alleging 91 felonies, Reuters points out.

“Trump has fused the roles of candidate and defendant,” the wire service reports. “He attacks judges as political foes, demonizes prosecutors and casts the judicial system as biased against him and his supporters.”

Jon Trainum, who previously oversaw the U.S. Marshals Service’s unit that investigated judicial threats, told Reuters that whenever a case against Trump was in court, “we would see a noticeable uptick in threats directed at whatever judge had the case.”

U.S. marshals investigated more than 1,200 threats against federal judges that they deemed to be serious in the last four years. Reuters identified 57 federal prosecutions involving judiciary threats, 47 of which involved threats against federal judges.

There is no comparable data for threats and intimidation against state court judges. But a survey by the National Judicial College of mostly state judges in 2022 found that nearly 90% were worried about their safety. One out of three had carried a gun for protection at some point.

The wire service spoke with Senior U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth of the District of Columbia, who said he was unprepared for the amount of death threats and harassment directed at him when he began hearing cases of defendants accused in the Jan. 6, 2021, U.S. Capitol riot. Lamberth received threats on his home phone and his chambers voicemail.

U.S. marshals found the man calling Lamberth’s home and warned him to stop. They also upgraded Lamberth’s home security system.

“Living this way, it does change your life,” Lamberth said.

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