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October 20, 2023

Statement of ABA President Mary Smith RE: Murder of Maryland circuit court judge

CHICAGO, Oct. 20, 2023 — The American Bar Association is saddened and distraught at the murder Thursday of Washington County, Maryland, Circuit Court Judge Andrew Wilkinson in his driveway by what law enforcement believes was a targeted attack after the judge granted custody of the suspect's children to their mother. The ABA conveys its deepest condolences to Judge Wilkinson’s family and colleagues.

We are angered at yet another attack on a jurist for doing the job they swore to do. Threats against the judiciary have increased more than fivefold in the past decade, and it needs to stop. These assaults are attacks on the rule of law. Judges must be able to decide matters that come before them without fear of reprisal or physical harm to themselves or their families. If they cannot, an essential element of our democracy will be lost.

Courts and our justice system need to be open and transparent, but judges cannot be made targets for any disgruntled person with a grievance. Congress recently passed the Daniel Anderl Judicial Security and Privacy Act to bolster efforts to protect the federal judiciary and safeguard the personally identifiable information of federal judges and their immediate families. While some states have similar laws protecting state judges, more states need to adopt laws and policies to adequately fund judicial system security protocols to prevent acts of violence related to the justice system.

The violence against our judges must stop and their protection must become a priority.

The ABA is the largest voluntary association of lawyers in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law.