Judiciary leaders are expressing deep concern that Congress has failed to provide funding to protect federal judges and courthouses, and are urging House and Senate leaders to appropriate money to address a “worsening” safety environment.
“We look to you to help address those needs and promote our mutual goal of a safe, effective Judiciary,” said Judge Roslynn R. Mauskopf, secretary of the Judicial Conference of the United States, and Judge John W. Lungstrum, chair of the Conference’s Budget Committee, in an Aug. 11 letter (pdf).
“The number of security incidents are increasing and the threat environment is worsening,” they said. “The continued existence of these threats and vulnerabilities poses serious risks not just to specific judges, court personnel, or facilities, but also to the effective administration of justice in this country.”
Mauskopf and Lungstrum cited a decision to remove $182.5 million in judicial security funding from the Emergency Security Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021, a law recently passed in response to the Jan. 6 Capitol attacks and for other purposes. The judicial security funding was included in earlier iterations of the bill, but was dropped from the final bill. The letter called that decision “deeply concerning.”
The Judiciary has pushed for additional security funding since July 2020, when the son of U.S. District Judge Esther Salas was murdered, and her husband was gravely wounded, by a disgruntled litigant who came to their New Jersey home posing as a delivery courier. During public disturbances last year, more than 50 courthouses were damaged, and two security employees were shot near courthouses, one fatally.
“The Judiciary began sounding the alarm about critical security vulnerabilities over a year ago,” they wrote. “A comprehensive approach is required to effectively address the growing violence and threats facing the Judiciary. Our constitutional system depends on judges who can make decisions without fear of reprisal or retribution.”
The letter was sent to the House and Senate leadership, and to leaders of the House and Senate Appropriations Committee (pdf). It noted that the Judiciary’s $1.54 billion infrastructure request seeks $389.5 million in judicial and courthouse security spending, if Congress approves additional infrastructure funding through the budget reconciliation process. That security request includes:
- $112.5 million to harden courthouses to withstand a hostile incursion;
- $10 million for a new security vulnerability program to proactively manage security vulnerabilities at the national, circuit, and district level; and
- $267 million as a direct appropriation to the Federal Protective Service to upgrade aging perimeter security cameras at federal courthouses and other court facilities.