Worried after recent attacks, federal judges urged Congress yesterday to provide more protection, including $12 million for security systems in most of their homes.
"Unfortunately, at the present time federal judges across the country are feeling particularly vulnerable, not only for themselves, but also for their families," said a letter from the Judicial Conference of the United States, the court's policymaking board, led by Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist.
The request follows the February killings of a federal judge's husband and mother in Chicago, courtroom shooting deaths in Atlanta in March and criticism of judges who declined to order the reinsertion of Terri Schiavo's feeding tube.
Democrats said Congress should approve the judges' request. "It's ironic that judges who are guardians of our rights are subject to violence, and we ought to do everything we can to protect them," said Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.). "This is a reasonable request that I hope every senator will be for."
Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) said he will try to add the money to an emergency spending bill the Senate plans to consider next week.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) plans to hold hearings in May on judicial and courthouse security. "They have a risky job, and they are entitled to security," he said.
Republicans have been criticized for statements about the federal courts after the Schiavo rulings. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.), raising the prospect of impeachment, said after the Florida woman's death: "The time will come for the men responsible for this to answer for their behavior."