Following the murder today of Arizona’s Chief Federal Judge John McCarthy Roll at the shooting incident in Arizona, a spokesman for the U.S. Marshals Service told TPM the federal agency is taking “appropriate actions to ensure the security of the federal judiciary.”“For obvious reasons I cannot discuss any actions we may be taking as a result of the shooting in Arizona,” Jeff Carter, Chief of the Office of Public Affairs for the U.S. Marshals Service told TPM in a statement. “What I can tell you is that we take our judicial security mission very seriously and continuously monitor for threats.”
As a federal law enforcement official told the newspaper, callers “cursed him out, threatened to kill his family, said they’d come and take care of him. They really wanted him dead.” The calls from as far as Richmond and Baltimore, the official told the newspaper.
Threats against federal judges have been soaring nationwide in recent years. The newspaper reported:
U.S. marshals put Roll, who was appointed to the federal bench by President George H.W. Bush in 1991, under 24-hour protection for about a month. They guarded his home in a secluded area just outside Tucson, screening his mail and escorting him to court, to the gym and even to Mass.
Roll told the Post in May 2009 that “any judge who goes through this knows it’s a stressful situation” and that he and his family were grateful for the protection.
John Clark, who retired as Director of the U.S. Marshals Service just last month, told me in an interview last spring that the Internet created a greater threat environment against judges.
“In today’s world there are more individuals who are more prone to threatening judges,” Clark told me. “I think a lot of it has to do with the availability of information with the use of technology and the Internet. Individuals can find out more about particular cases and judges decisions. They can use Internet sources to find out more about the judge. So if someone is prone to want to threaten someone, there are a number of ways they can find material about a judge. We have to think about that as well.”
Clark told me that the U.S. Marshals Service also strengthened its relationship with the judiciary during his time at the helm.
More on the threats against Roll here.
Late Update: Carter also confirmed that Roll “was not under U.S. Marshals Service protection at the time of the incident.”
Late, Late Update: The New York Times has more:
Killings of federal judges are rare. The last to be murdered in office was Judge Robert Vance, who was killed by a mail bomb at his home in Mountain Brook, Ala., in 1989.
On Dec. 21, Judge Roll sent an e-mail to Judge [Alex] Kozinski with an attached letter from Ms. Giffords and another member of Congress from Arizona, Ed Pastor, a Democrat. The two members of Congress encouraged the Ninth Circuit to “declare a judicial emergency” to help cope with the increased workload by extending deadlines under the speedy trial act. In the e-mail, Judge Roll wrote that the Congressional letter was “unsolicited but very much appreciated.”
Judge Kozinski speculated — “just a guess,” he said — that Judge Roll might have gone to the event on Saturday to thank Ms. Giffords for the letter. “And he gets killed for it.”
Judge Kozinski added, “If it can happen to him, it can happen to any of us.”