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Acting in the wake of recent assaults on judges and their families, the nation’s top federal judges last week called on law enforcement officials to undertake a full review of security measures for judges, especially at their homes. With Chief Justice William Rehnquist presiding over its closed-door meeting at the U.S. Supreme Court, the Judicial Conference of the United States passed a resolution describing the “crisis in off-site judicial security” as a matter “of the gravest concern to the federal judiciary.” The resolution went on to say that “addressing this matter is of the highest urgency to the conference.” The conference, which sets policy for the federal judiciary, met two weeks after the husband and mother of Chicago U.S. District Judge Joan Humphrey Lefkow were murdered-allegedly by a disgruntled litigant-and four days after Georgia state judge Rowland Barnes was shot to death in his Atlanta courtroom. “Judges all over the country are terribly concerned,” said Carolyn Dineen King, chief judge of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and chair of the executive committee of the Judicial Conference, in a press conference after the meeting. The conference, comprising judges from all federal circuits and the Court of International Trade, heard from congressional leaders as well as Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Echoed in California, New York King’s comments were echoed in California. Declaring that “environments of insecurity and intimidation are unacceptable,” California Supreme Court Chief Justice Ron George asked a joint session of the California Legislature last week for money to improve courthouse security around the state. George said two-thirds of the state’s 450 trial court facilities lack adequate security. Many courthouses have one public hallway where witnesses, jurors and prisoners walk to court, along with judges. In some areas judges even hold court in cramped trailers. He said California’s nearly 1,500 trial judges, court staff and the public need adequate protection and cited violence in recent years in San Diego, Los Angeles, San Luis Obispo, Marin, Placer and Siskiyou counties. Just two days before George’s speech, a Southern California gang member on trial for two homicides used a concealed razor blade to slash his attorney during a San Fernando courtroom hearing. King said the judges’ concern focused on off-site measures, in part because the federal judges targeted in recent decades have all been attacked at their homes. She said that judges themselves bear some of the responsibility for gaps in home security, because many “haven’t asked” for the security review that the U.S. Marshals Service already offers. In New York, Chief Administrative Judge Jonathan Lippman announced the formation of a task force to review court security issues. He stressed that the recent, much publicized attacks did not raise any issues of particular concern. Rather, the incidents served as a reminder that, 3 1/2 years after 9/11, security remains an ongoing matter. —Pamela A. MacLean of the NLJ and Mark Fass of the New York Law Journal contributed to this report.

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