WASHINGTON – Federal judges are in danger because the U.S. Marshals Service does not work quickly enough to protect them amid growing threats of violence, Justice Department investigators said Wednesday.
The review by Justice's inspector general sought to examine the adequacy of government security for the nation's 2,200 federal judges following a spike in acts of violence and reports of inappropriate communications in 2005 and 2006.
It found that as recently as October of last year, the U.S. Marshals Service's efforts to improve security had "languished," with a backlog of 1,190 cases of reported threats to review. About two-thirds of the overall cases reviewed in 2005 and 2006 were not assessed in a timely manner.
Even when threats were reviewed, the cases were not examined fully enough, leaving judges at risk, investigators said. Meanwhile, a special office created by the Marshals Service to identify potential threats against judges has floundered due to inadequate staffing and money.
"The USMS must exhibit a greater sense of urgency in improving its capability to assess reported threats against the judiciary, creating and sharing protective intelligence on potential threats, and completing the implementation of enhanced security measures," says the report by Justice inspector general Glenn Fine.
"Given the importance of the issue of judicial protection, and the threats to federal judges in the past, we believe that the Marshals Service should move quickly to implement its plans to improve the protection of the federal judiciary," he said.
In the report, the Marshals Service concurred with many of the findings and said it was taking additional steps in the coming year to improve protection.