Earlier, this year, a man posing as a delivery driver went to the New Jersey home of U.S. District Judge Esther Salas. In reality, the man was a self-described “anti-feminist” lawyer who had called Judge Salas as “a lazy and incompetent Latina judge appointed by Obama.” The man reportedly became fixated on Judge Salas because he was unhappy with her handling of a lawsuit he’d filed arguing that it violated mens’ rights not to subject women to the draft.
The man rang the doorbell of Judge Salas’s home. Her husband and her son opened the door, and the man opened fire. Her husband was shot three times and survived. Her son, who tried to protect his father, was shot through the heart and died. Judge Salas detailed the horrifying attack on her family in their home in this video.
This tragedy is not unique. It was preceded by the targeted murders of Judge John Wood (WD Tex.) in 1979 at his home, Judge Richard Daronco (SDNY) in 1988 at his home, Judge Robert Vance (CA11) in 1989 at his home, and family members of Judge Joan Lefkow (ND Ill) in 2005 at her home.
In the wake of the attack on Judge Salas’s family, the Judicial Conference of the United States has recommended a package of concrete measures Congress can take now to improve judicial security:
(1) seeking legislation to enhance the protection of judges’ personally identifiable information, particularly on the internet; (2) supporting the development of a resource, in coordination with the U.S. Marshals Service, to monitor the public availability of judges’ personally identifiable information and potential and actual threats; (3) supporting additional appropriations for the U.S. Marshals Service to replace and sustain home intrusion security systems installed in judges’ homes with current security capabilities and technologies; (4) supporting increased appropriations for the U.S. Marshals Service to hire additional Deputy U.S. Marshals in accordance with the District Staffing Model; and (5) supporting a direct appropriation to the Federal Protective Service to fund required upgrades of security cameras at U.S. courthouses. A sixth recommendation seeking legislation to eliminate the sunset provision which grants the Judicial Conference authority to redact financial disclosure reports has been a goal of the Judicial Conference for many years.
In a September 4 letter to Senate leaders, Judge David McKeague and Judicial Conference secretary James Duff put it plainly: “Threats against federal judges are increasing and it is imperative that the Judicial Branch and Legislative Branch work together to take action to prevent another tragedy involving judges and their families.”
My view: measures like keeping federal judges’ home addresses off the internet and installing modern security systems in their homes are basic, commonsense steps. Even in these contentious times, protecting the lives of federal judges and their families should be something we all can agree on. Lawyers should speak up in support of these measures, and Congress should enact them without delay.
Because Judge Salas is right:
My family has experienced a pain that no one should ever have to endure. And I am here asking everyone to help me ensure that no one ever has to experience this kind of pain. We may not be able to stop something like this from happening again, but we can make it hard for those who target us to track us down.
“Let me be clear and tell you firsthand—this is a matter of life and death,” she said. “And we can’t just sit back and wait for another tragedy to strike.”