The brutal murder of the husband and mother of Chicago federal judge Joan Lefkow is a horrific reminder of the dangers that many in the legal community face simply by virtue of who they are, says the Christian Science Monitor. The case could be the first instance of an U.S. federal judge’s family members being killed as a result of rulings he or she made. But although assaults on prosecutors and members of the judiciary are rare, threats are increasingly common.
Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project, which tracks more than 700 hate groups, notes that the judge’s home address was posted on the Internet. “So it is not difficult to surmise that a member or sympathizer of this incredibly violent group might very well have been behind the murders,” he says. About 700 threats or “inappropriate communications” are logged against judges every year. With each one, an assessment is made as to the level of danger and the actions required, says Dave Turk of the U.S. Marshals Service. They consider input from the judge affected, who may not want the inconvenience of a security team. In 2003, the agency provided 20 protective details for judges and attorneys, 12 of which were round-the-clock.