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Shooting at U.S. Judge’s Home Highlights Risks Outside Court (2)

July 20, 2020, 4:40 PM; Updated: July 20, 2020, 9:40 PM

A shooting at a New Jersey federal judge’s home that killed her son and wounded her husband comes as threats to judges and other court workers are increasing.

Daniel Anderl, the son of Judge Esther Salas of the District of New Jersey, was killed by a person dressed as a delivery driver who came to the door of their North Brunswick, N.J., home on Sunday, according to news reports. Salas’s husband, Mark Anderl, was wounded, the reports said.

While attacks on federal judges and their families are rare, the U.S. Marshals Service, tasked with protecting about 2,700 federal judges and 30,300 other court officials, reported increases in threats and inappropriate communications against the judiciary in recent years.

“Over the past three years, incidents, inappropriate communications, and threats rose steadily by more than 40%,” the Marshals Service said in its fiscal 2021 budget submission to Congress. It also said it “expects this rise to steadily increase over the next several years and anticipates an equal rise in more complex threats.”

It is unclear if Salas was the target of the attack. Daniel Anderl, who turned 20 last week, was a rising junior at The Catholic University of America in Washington, according to a tweet by John Garvey, the school’s president.

“This kind of lawless, evil action carried out against a member of the federal judiciary will not be tolerated, and I have ordered the full resources of the FBI and U.S. Marshals Service to investigate the matter,” U.S. Attorney General William Barr said in a statement.

In a statement, the U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey identified Roy Den Hollander as “the primary subject in the attack” and said he “is now deceased.”

Hollander’s body was found in upstate New York hours after the shooting, and he is believed to have died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, the New York Times reported.

The attack on Salas’s family also recalls the history of fatal incidents involving judges and their families. With the exception of Supreme Court justices, judges who aren’t facing specific threats have little in the way of personal protection once they step outside federal courthouses.

Constant Worry

“It’s a very bad situation. The kind of thing judges have to worry about all the time,” retired U.S. Judge David R. Herndon, a former chair of the Judicial Conference’s Committee on Judicial Security, said of the attack on Salas’s home. It would have been difficult to prevent, he said.

At least four federal judges have been killed in attacks: Robert Smith Vance, Richard J. Daronco, John H. Wood, and John Roll. Others have been targeted.

In 2005, the husband and mother of now-senior U.S. Judge Joan Humphrey Lefkow were shot and killed inside her Chicago home. Lefkow wasn’t home at the time of the attack and discovered their bodies when she returned, according to a 2005 Chicago Tribune report.

That incident prompted an increase in protection for U.S. judges. Later that year, Congress approved $12 million to fund the installation and upkeep of home security systems for federal judges.

Herndon, who retired from his seat on the Southern District of Illinois last year, said when he was on the bench, there were videos for judges on various security issues. Judges are also given materials on security when they first join the court.

“I think the judiciary is extremely well prepared to protect judges, as are the judges themselves, but sometimes a tragedy is inevitable,” Herndon said.

In February, the judiciary requested a 3.9% increase in court security funding for equipment like badge systems and video security in courthouses. The judiciary also reported a sharp increase in cyber attacks against the judiciary.

Home, Cyber Protection

For judges, and public figures generally, “targeted violence typically occurs away from secured environments,” said John F. Muffler, former administrator and chief inspector of the U.S. Marshals Service National Center for Judicial Security.

“Whereas you see impromptu emotional violence in a courtroom, you see targeted, planned attacks outside the courthouse,” said Muffler, who still writes about judicial security.

For that reason, the Marshals Service provides judges information and training to protect themselves outside their homes, he said. “A key piece is that judges understand that they are in an at-risk position all the time now, and so is their family,” Muffler said.

Muffler authored a security checklist for federal judges published by the National Judicial College, which provides educational seminars for judges. That checklist quizzes judges on their use of a home security system and whether they’ve had a professional security assessment performed on their home.

As far as next steps in judicial security, Muffler said he’d like to see more done to protect judges’ information in the cyber realm, like removing addresses or family photos online that could jeopardize their security.

“That’s something that would at least slow down an attacker or throw up a hurdle,” Muffler said.

(Updates with Justice Department identifying Roy Den Hollander as "primary subject" in attack.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Madison Alder in Washington at malder@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Seth Stern at sstern@bloomberglaw.com

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