American Morning

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May 29th, 2009
06:48 AM ET

Judge safety in and out of court

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="New Orleans Judge Laurie White in her chambers as she prepares for a hearing."]

From CNN Producer Eric Marrapodi

(Washington, DC) - I’ve spent a lot of time in my career as a journalist in and out of courthouses covering murders, rapists, and other nefarious folks who got put away for a long time. Being in court can be pretty dramatic regardless of what side you’re on.

Emotions run high and it's generally cramped quarters, especially for the victim’s family members who could be sitting a few feet from the accused killer. Those tensions can and sometimes do explode. Look no further than the Atlanta courthouse shooting in 2005 or the judge in Florida who leaped over the bench in March after a defendant attacked a victim during in a hearing.

For judges – safety is becoming a growing concern. A report released by the U.S. Marshals says threats against prosecutors and federal judges have gone from 500 in 2003 to 1,200 in 2008. Jeanne Meserve and I spoke with a few judges for our piece this morning. All had horror stories of being threatened either early in their careers as an attorney or while on the bench.

Judge Laurie White, a criminal court judge in New Orleans, LA said, “If you're going to get elected and be in the rough and tough world of criminal justice you can't be shy and you'd better have nerves of steel. And you better have a strong gut. It's not an easy spot and I think you do this job at your own personal risk and the point is whether you depend on everyone else to protect you or you provide a lot of your own protection." In New Orleans the only person allowed to carry a firearm by law is the judge, but in Washington, D.C. neither the judges nor the bailiffs have firearms on them in the courtroom.

U.S. District Court Judge Reggie Walker has been threatened many times in his career, most recently during the Scooter Libby trial here in Washington, D.C. “None of us want to be reversed, none of us want to be threatened. You can't play scared,” he said. “Our obligation is to ensure that the rule of law is adhered to and if you can't do that because of fear, then obviously you're not fulfilling what your constitutional obligations are as a judge. So, despite the potential that you may be reversed, and despite the potential that you may be threatened, you gotta do what you think is right.”

Watch: New threats against judges

Filed under: Crime
soundoff (7 Responses)
  1. lawyermommy

    Yes, I do agree that judges especially those who deal with the tough world of criminal justice need protection, however, the citizens also need protection as well from the criminals who run around unfettered because of the LAX laws in the books.

    For nine years, my phones (home and cell phones) have been illegally wiretapped, my microphones activated in both my cell and home phones and used as a listening devices and my computer repeatedly infected by Trojans and other Malware by members of an online criminal enterprise who listen to my calls and use the information obtained as fodder for their numerous websites, blogs and poorly written fabricated experiences in their pathetic e-books.

    Akbar Shabazz of Project 21, Shay Riley his wife of "Black Female Interracial Marriage, Jibreel Riley and other accomplices have ASSAULTED ME ONLINE for nine years and to date, NO member of this criminal group has been prosecuted for their vicious and unrelenting online CRIMINALITY.

    Shay Riley aka Evia Moore aka Halima Sal Andersen runs at least 50 websites where she pretends to be an Interracially married woman and a BLACK POWER proponent!! Meanwhile, she is married to a Black criminal AKBAR SHABAZZ and the so called interracial experiences she chronicles are obtained from illegal wiretaps of women like me. Women of color who are legitimately interracially married.

    She targets the so called people she pretends to empower. All to make a profit. This woman is a vicious fiend who has no business rearing children. He husband, apart of this enterprise, Akbar Shabazz is a CHILDREN'S COACH!! These people are CROOKS. Online PREDATORS!!

    IT AMAZES me that in the 21st century, these breed of PREDATORS and online SCUM are allowed to hone thier criminal skills because law enforcement is unable to route them. Infact, Jibreel, a member of this Violently criminal enterprise runs several websites where he pretends to be White and male on one and Black and female on another –"Whitemenwhopreferblackwomen" and "Siddity" respectively and he openly BRAGS about his ability to evade the authorities and claims that he accesses hundreds of computers daily.

    Law enforcement not routing these FIENDS creates and environment which encourages criminality... so by the time these miscreants come before a judge to be sentenced, their amorality might create in them a sense of indignation causing them to direct their ire at a Judge. Outrageous!

    They have committed these crimes for so long that it almost seems to them that the courts of law should not hold them liable for repeatedly and viciously breaking the law by perpetrating vicious criminal conduct.

    The solution. CHANGE THE LAWS REGARDING ONLINE CRIMINALITY. Train law enforcement to track and hunt down these fiends. STIFF penalties should be given for breaking federal law through illegal wiretaps and other forms of electronic armed robbery.

    Investigate, arraign and sentence AKBAR SHABAZZ, SHAY RILEY, JIBREEL AND OTHER ACCOMPLICES for their unrelenting and vile criminal conduct against innocent law abiding citizens!!

    JUSTICE DELAYED makes judges vulnerable to bad responses from these GUTTER SNIPES– whose inexplicable freedom in the face of brazen and continuing criminality has robbed them of a knowledge that THEY and all scum of their ilk ARE SUBJECT to the LAWS OF THE LAND!!

    May 30, 2009 at 2:10 am |
  2. Georgia Boy

    Great article this morning.

    You did a great job explaining the politics behind 'the activist' charge. It is nothing more than a charge used to move the right wing /social conservative agenda forward. I fail to see why they don't realize that their preferences, judges who will overturn roe vs wade, are not also activits. In my opinion activist applies to both sides.

    The irony is that judges in biblical times ( hebrew scriptures) where judeges where chosen for wisdom, not for their politiics. Pres. Obama has used this reasonging to introduce Sotamayor. The biblical values gang didn't get this.

    If you are interested in looking at judicail appointments in history, Benjamin Cardozo was also an out of the box pick and was challenged because his 'occidental heritage'. You would enjoy reading the debate, it is quite comical.

    May 29, 2009 at 9:03 am |
  3. James Dooley

    I think its good thing Judges are so protected they deserve to be.

    May 29, 2009 at 9:00 am |
  4. Allan Horn - St. Petersburg, FL

    Many prominent Republicans have called Obama's selection for the Supreme Court a reverse-racist and an activist judge... they have pointed out that she hasn't told them how she would decide non-existent theoretical cases based on theoretical non-existent facts and information... and they have suggested that only a fool would appoint her to any federal judgeship, let alone a Supreme Court Justice who might have to take part in a decision as to who becomes president some day.

    Of course the charge of being a reverse-racist is based on a long and rather complex statement she once made regarding how a judge's decisions MIGHT in some ways be tempered by their background and experience... obviously an outrageous and foolish idea. It is much better to decide cases based on whim.

    The people who have most loudly made these accusations are the Republicans who each have a long history of making perfect and wise statements and decisions in the past... people who supported invading Iraq... people who explained the glamour and excitement of "enhanced interrogation techniques"... and people who supported the idea of giving Secretary Paulson $350 billion dollars to give away to Wall Street and the banks without any means of tracking or accounting for those funds.

    Those people were Dick Cheney, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Ann Coulter.

    Strangely, most of these same people once thought quite highly of Judge Sotomayer... and spoke highly of her qualifications... back when GEORGE H. W. BUSH first appointed her to a federal judgeship.

    May 29, 2009 at 8:55 am |
  5. michael armstrong sr.

    this is the line of work these judges chose to do and if they thought it was safe then they used poor judgement so if they cant take the rebuttle they need to get out of the court room.

    May 29, 2009 at 8:28 am |
  6. Ross Buchanan

    The one issue not addressed here, except by one U.S. Marshal, was the question of why this is happening. As stated, the Federal court system is the last chance for justice.
    Maybe these judges should start looking at their decisions instead of concentrating on security. Are the threats increasing because their decisions are becoming more unjust?
    Once you take away someone's last chance for justice, what do you expect them to do?

    May 29, 2009 at 7:17 am |
  7. Purple Spider

    Why do Judges not carry firearms to protect themselves? When you have idiots out there that cause fights in a court room and the number death threats are rising against Judges and/or the legal system, then isn't time to maintain better safety measures?

    May 29, 2009 at 7:10 am |