Terrible People Threatening Federal Judges Because Who Aren't They Threatening
The US Marshals Service, which provides security for federal courts, says that US federal judges were targeted with more than 4,500 threats and "other inappropriate communications" in 2021, Reuters reports. Ronald Davis, director of the Marshals Service, said in a conference call with reporters that "The increase in our judicial ... threat investigations and inappropriate comments have been going up quite frankly for a couple of years" and that the risk is "growing exponentially."
Davis said that his agency is concerned about the rise in domestic extremism and the potential threat to federal judges.
Yr Wonkette, wondering what exactly constitutes "inappropriate communications," wasn't able to find an actual definition of it, but we didn't go very far down that rabbit hole.
The threats are certainly out there, to be sure; judges have been calling for better security since the 2020 murder of the adult son of federal Judge Esther Salas at her New Jersey home. Salas's husband was also wounded in the attack, which was allegedly perpetrated by an anti-feminist attorney with a long online history of bizarre misogynist rants. The suspect in the killing later killed himself.
The murder of Salas's son was followed by two other threats against federal judges in New Jersey. In October 2020, William Kaetz was arrested for sending threatening emails to the judge in a case he was involved in, and then in November 2021, another litigant, Jonathan D. Williams of Newark, was arrested for repeatedly making phone calls threatening to shoot and kill the presiding judge in his case.
Williams, 46, made three calls [...] to the chambers of a federal judge, who authorities have not identified. On the first call, he spoke to a courtroom deputy about a civil suit that he filed and that is presently before the judge. Williams said he needed to get the case in front of a jury immediately in order to “get my settlement.” When he called the same judge’s chambers a second time, he discussed his case with a law clerk and said, “Before the snow starts falling on my head, I’m gonna put a bullet in the judge’s brain. … He’s a scumbag.”
When Williams phoned the judge’s chambers a third time, personnel from the U.S. Marshals Service were present, and they heard him direct sexually explicit, profane and racially disparaging remarks at that employee before stating, “You’ll see! You’ll lose your job when I kill your boss.”
For good measure, Williams also showed up at a law firm in Newark and announced to security guards who stopped him in the lobby that he was "going to blow the judge's brains out."
And in New York last July, a man was sentenced to 18 moths in federal prison for leaving death threats on the voicemail of Judge Emmet Sullivan, who presided over the criminal case against former Trump adviser Michael Flynn. Trump pardoned Flynn for lying to the FBI, but somehow never got around to pardoning the guy who threatened Judge Sullivan.
A June 2021 Justice Department audit of the US Marshals Service found that the agency "does not have the resources or proactive threat detection capabilities that the USMS has determined it needs to meet its protective services obligations" for federal court personnel, including judges. To adequately protect federal courts, the audit recommended hiring another 1,200 deputy marshals.
So far, Congress hasn't upped the budget for the Marshals Service; maybe that will be tucked into the planned omnibus spending bill that's needed to fund the federal government through the end of September (in between, expect yet another short-term bill to head off a government shutdown at the end of this week).
Some states, like New Mexico, are already increasing funding for protection of state and local courts, citing increased threats.
Gosh, if only something could somehow account for the astonishing increase in threats against federal courts between 2015 and now. It truly is puzzling. Sunspots, maybe?
In conclusion, with rightwing extremists having threatened Capitol Police, elections officials, school boards, public health officials and healthcare workers, and all these threats against judges, we would like to suggest journalists start compiling information on job categories that are not yet facing rightwing death threats, to see what they're doing to stay off the violent wingnuts' radar.
As far as we know, ice cream truck drivers and certified aircraft mechanics, as well as custodial staff at Smithsonian-affiliated museums and research facilities, have been OK. Sorry if that puts you folks in the sights of the crazies.
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