Administrative law judges facing increase in violent threats: report

[JURIST] Federal judges responsible for handling Social Security disability claims and immigration hearings are petitioning for increased security measures after data released Monday shows they have been the targets of numerous threats [press release, PDF]. According to the report released by the Association of Administrative Law Judges (AALJ) and the National Association of Immigration Judges (NAIJ) [official websites], security risks for federal employees handling these "emotional" cases have increased over the past five years. Citing a backlog in the number of hearings that "cause anger and anxiety," the data cites 28 violent threats on Social Security offices and nine threats on disability claims judges between March and August 2009. According to the report, an additional 21 threats were reported between September 2009 and February 2010:

Judges have reported threatening letters and emails directed at them and their families, chairs thrown at them, and their robes being grabbed while on the bench. One judge had her automobile's brake lines cut and one respondent in an immigration hearing attempted suicide in front of the judge.
The report lists a number of physical changes and personnel improvements that the associationshope will improve security. The needed improvements include the addition of railings to hearing rooms, peep holes in doors so that security guards can see into the courtrooms, separate entrances for judges and claimants and increased security risk training for courtroom personnel.

Threats against judges, US attorneys and assistant US attorneys have more than doubled over the last six years, according to a report [text, PDF] released [JURIST report] in January by the US Department of Justice. The report found that judges, US attorneys and assistant US attorneys received 1,278 threats in 2008, compared to 592 in 2003. Additionally, the report found that threats are not always consistently and promptly reported. Earlier this month, a right-wing blogger from New Jersey was convicted [JURIST report] by a federal jury for death threats made on his blog against federal judges who upheld a gun control law. In December 2008, Brian Nichols was sentenced to seven life terms to be served consecutively in addition to other punishment for shooting and killing a superior court judge [JURIST reports] and other personnel in an Atlanta courthouse in an attempted escape. In April 2008, Ohio resident David Tuason was indicted for allegedly threatening to blow up the US Supreme Court building [JURIST report] and attack black men, including Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Other death threats [JURIST report] have been reported in recent years against Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and now-retired Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

 

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