Threats against judges and prosecutors have sharply increased, prompting hundreds to get 24-hour protection from armed U.S. marshals, the Washington Post reports. Many federal judges are altering routes to work, installing home security systems, and shielding their addresses by paying bills at the courthouse or refraining from registering to vote. Some pack weapons on the bench. At a high-tech “threat management” center in Virginia, 25 marshals and analysts monitor a 24-hour number for reporting threats, use sophisticated mapping software to track those being threatened, and tap into a database linked to the FBI and CIA.
The threats and other harassing communications against federal court personnel have more than doubled in the past six years, from 592 to 1,278, says the U.S. Marshals Service. Officials blame disgruntled defendants whose anger is fueled by the Internet; terrorism and gang cases that bring more violent offenders into federal court; frustration at the economic crisis; and the “sovereign citizen” movement — tax protesters, white supremacists, and others who don’t respect federal authority. Much concern was fueled by the murder of U.S. District Judge Joan Lefkow’s husband and mother in their Chicago home in 2005 and a rampage 11 days later by an Atlanta rape suspect, who killed a judge, the court stenographer, and a deputy.