Dr. Howard Kotler saw Bart Ross, who was suing him, as a dangerous menace. It seemed that no one in the legal system–not the judges, not the lawyers, not court security–was paying enough attention to the threat Ross posed, says the Chicago Tribune. “Surprisingly, you continue to ignore what drives a person like Mr. Ross,” Kotler wrote in 2003 to one of the attorneys on the case. “I would have thought that as a group of professionals who deal indirectly with human reaction to adversity, that you might have had more foresight than demonstrated. You have grossly underestimated the tenacity and personal threat that Mr. Ross represents.”
A year and a half later, Ross murdered the husband and mother of U.S. District Court Judge Joan H. Lefkow, and then two weeks later he killed himself. The story of Ross’ last decade is told in thousands of pages of court documents that spell out his torment as he lays down threats. Some authorities now recognize that Ross had given them an indication of where he was headed. They say their struggle is how to sort out the few who would carry out violence from the many who threaten it. Investigators who looked into Ross’ threats at the time maintain that it would have been difficult to take harsher action against him. Some judges and lawyers urge reforms, ranging from greater emphasis on assessing the mental health of contentious plaintiffs to creating a database that would flag people who make repeated threats.