Kavanaugh incident could lead to more safety for judges

WASHINGTON (AP) — A man armed with a machete broke into Stephen Breyer’s Caribbean vacation home and took $1,000. Ruth Bader Ginsburg had her purse stolen from a Washington street. David Souter was attacked by several men while jogging.

Supreme Court justices are not immune to violent crime. But last week’s late-night incident at Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s home in suburban Washington, where authorities said a man armed with a gun and knife threatened to kill the judge, reflects an increased level of potential danger, not only for members of the highest court in the land, but all judges.

The round-the-clock security afforded to judges after the leaked draft notice in a major abortion case may well have averted a tragedy.

READ MORE: Supreme Court says gunman arrested near Justice Kavanaugh’s home

But the situation had a lot in common with other recent incidents that culminated in the shooting death of a former Wisconsin judge last week and the 2020 murder of a federal judge’s son at their New Jersey home. . Troubled men, driven by a warped desire for revenge and armed with guns, turned their threats into action.

“We see these threats increasing in number and intensity. It’s a sign. It’s a signal,” said U.S. District Judge Esther Salas, whose son was killed nearly two years ago in the attack that also injured her husband.

Kavanaugh’s potential assailant is Nicholas John Roske, 26, of Simi Valley, Calif., authorities said, charging him with attempted murder of a judge. Dressed in black, he arrived in a taxi outside Kavanaugh’s home in Maryland around 1 a.m. Wednesday.

He spotted two U.S. Marshals guarding the house and walked the other way, calling 911 to say he had suicidal thoughts and also planned to kill Kavanaugh, according to court documents. Roske said he found the judge’s address on the Internet.

When police searched a backpack and suitcase he was carrying, they said they found a Glock 17 pistol, ammunition, a knife, zip ties, duct tape and other items Roske said was going to use to break into the house. He said he bought the gun to kill Kavanaugh.

Roske told police he was upset about the leak of the draft abortion notice and the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, and believed Kavanaugh would vote to relax laws on gun control, according to documents filed in federal court in Maryland.

Last week, Wisconsin authorities said Douglas Uhde, 56, shot John Roemer, a former county judge, in a targeted attack on a judge who once sentenced him to prison. Roemer was found tied to a chair. Uhde had committed suicide and later died.

People take photos through a protective anti-climb fence after it was set up the previous night outside the United States Supreme Court building in Washington, United States, May 5, 2022. Photo by Leah Millis /Reuters.

In July 2020, attorney Roy Den Hollander showed up at Judge Salas’ home posing as a FedEx delivery person. Den Hollander shot and killed Salas’ 20-year-old son, Daniel Anderl, and injured her husband, Mark Anderl. The judge was in another part of the house at the time and was not injured.

Den Hollander, 72, was a men’s rights lawyer with a history of anti-feminist writing. He was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound the day after the ambush, when police said they found a document containing information on a dozen female judges from across the country, half of whom are Latina, including Salas.

Authorities believe Den Hollander was also following Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Salas said in a TV interview last year, because they found a file from Manila containing information about Sotomayor when they searched a locker belonging to in Den Hollander.

Over the years, Supreme Court justices have asked Congress to provide more money for their security. But at the same time, judges often ignored protection when it was offered. When Judge Antonin Scalia died on a hunting trip to Texas in 2016, for example, he had no security detail with him.

In recent years, the court has increased security for judges. The court consistently refuses to discuss the protection of the nine judges, but Judge Amy Coney Barrett said earlier this year that she was unprepared for much more extensive security now than when she worked for Scalia at the end of the 1990s.

Sotomayor enjoys wandering among guests during her public appearances, often joking about the armed officers who are there to protect her. “Guys here. The big guys with things around their waists and everything. They’re there to protect you from me,” she laughed at an event this year. “They get nervous if you get up unexpectedly. … Please don’t make them nervous.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Thursday the House would pass a bill with bipartisan support that has already passed the Senate that would extend protections to immediate family members of judges.

Gabe Roth of judicial reform group Fix the Court said in his view that judges “need Secret Service level protection, which has only become more evident this week. I’ve been saying that for years.

A separate bill, named in memory of Salas’ son, would provide more privacy and protections to all federal judges, including removing personal information from the internet, to address growing cyber threats. The US Marshals Service, which protects about 2,700 federal judges and thousands of other prosecutors and court officials, said there were 4,511 threats and inappropriate communications in 2021, compared to 926 such incidents in 2015.

The legislation, also widely supported by lawmakers from both parties, was blocked by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who wants it to apply to members of Congress as well.

Sen. Bob Menendez, DN.J., the bill’s author, said the Kavanaugh incident and Roemer’s death in Wisconsin clearly show the need for the legislation. “Our bill is the only existing proposal to protect the personal information of judges and their families,” Menendez said in an email.

READ MORE: Justice Clarence Thomas says Supreme Court Roe leak ‘changes the institution’

A similar bill in the House was not even heard.

“We talk a lot about what can be done. How about we stop arming the public with information they use to kill us? What if we did that? Salas said Friday in an interview with The Associated Press.

The Internet has made it much easier to find personal information about judges and everyone else.

But even before the digital age, judges were sometimes targets of people who harbored grudges about their treatment in the criminal justice system. In a book, retired Texas judge Susan P. Baker details 42 judges, including three at the federal level, who were murdered or met with suspicious ends in the 20th century.

Over the past 17 years, three close relatives of federal judges have been killed in attacks on judges’ homes, including Salas’ son. In 2005, U.S. District Judge Joan Lefkow returned from work to find her husband and mother shot dead in the basement of her Chicago home. The killer was a homeless electrician who had lost a medical malpractice lawsuit in her courtroom.

U.S. District Judge Roslynn R. Mauskopf, who heads the office responsible for federal court administration, said the incident at Kavanaugh’s home is just the latest reminder that “threats against judges are real and that they can have and have had disastrous consequences”.

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