Since the attempted assassination of Texas Judge Julie Kocurek in November, law enforcement officials have retraced their steps in hopes of learning why a threat on the life of an unnamed judge never was funneled to potential targets, the Austin American-Statesman reports. The communication gap created still-mending tension between judges and the Travis County district attorney's office and sheriff's office, two agencies that knew about the threat but didn't convey it to judges. The incident also exposed the lack of formal procedures among local agencies for handling potential dangers against the judiciary, prosecutors and defense attorneys.
Three weeks after the threat was reported, a gunman opened fire on Kocurek in the driveway of her home. Police named a defendant in her court as a suspect, a man who had been investigated just weeks earlier for allegedly saying he planned to kill a judge. An American-Statesman review found that even though such threats appear to happen often in Texas, Travis County isn't alone in operating under sometimes loosely defined protocols. Unlike federal courts, which have uniform procedures and diligently track threats, state courts are instead guided by an array of local practices that usually includes routing threats to various law enforcement agencies but with no formal system for monitoring and follow-up. The Nov. 6 Kocurek shooting has galvanized officials across the state to review how they handle threats, a self-examination that could result in more formal threat responses. In Austin, Kocurek, who hasn't said when she will return to the bench but filed for re-election in November while still in the hospital. At the federal level, the U.S. Marshals Service investigated 768 threats and inappropriate communications last year.