by James Oliphant
During its late-night session yesterday, the Senate passed a bill aimed at ensuring the safety of the nation’s judges.
The Senate’s version of the Court Security Improvement Act follows a similar bill passed earlier this year by the House. The legislation now goes back to the House today to be reconciled with the Senate bill. Once that happens, it will go to the White House for the president’s signature.
The bill is a direct response to the murders of the family of Chicago federal judge Joan Humphrey Lefkow in 2005 and comes on the heels of a government report released earlier this year that said the U.S. Marshals Service wasn’t doing enough to assess threats against judges and courthouse personnel.
The bill authorizes the appropriation of $200 million over four years to provide additional staff to the Marshals Service and to provide grants to state and local governments to improve court security and protect victims and witnesses. The legislation also authorizes the appropriation of $100 million over that period to states to assess domestic terrorism (which, for some reason, has been lumped into a court security bill).
The bill also increased the maximum sentences for certain crimes and would extend provisions of law preventing the release of financial information if disclosure could endanger federal judges or their families.
“The Senate has waited far too long to enact this legislation to protect those who guard justice in our court system,” said Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) in a statement. “There is no doubt that we must protect officials of the court from disgruntled or disturbed individuals seeking to harm them, and the Senate has finally moved forward to make more resources available to provide that security to our federal judiciary.”