Sens. Richard J. Durbin and Barack Obama, both Illinois Democrats, asked Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales yesterday to speed up the distribution of $12 million for security systems for judges, saying they are not getting help fast enough.
"Both senators' offices have heard from judges that this money that had been approved in May was not being used," said Joe Shoemaker, a Durbin spokesman. "That's a huge problem for us."
Congress approved the funding after the slayings of a judge's family in Illinois and court officials in Georgia. The money is to increase security at judges' homes and courthouses. The legislation did not specify whether the money could be used for monthly system monitoring fees.
"Much of this money has not been spent, and many judges are being forced to personally foot the bill for their security," the senators wrote Gonzales.
The U.S. Marshals Service, which received the money, and the Judicial Conference of the United States, the policymaking board for the federal judiciary, said their discussions about how the money should be spent are complicated.
"There are discussions going on, and there hasn't been a plan that has been agreed to," Judicial Conference spokesman Dick Carelli said. "I think it's a complicated situation that is not just about one particular thing. It's about how this money is going to be spent and what is the best way to utilize it."
Marshals Service spokeswoman Mavis Dezulovich said the Justice Department agency is concerned the $12 million, which also could be used for surveillance at courthouses, is one-time funding, while the paying of monthly service fees is an ongoing expense.
Dezulovich estimated it would cost $1 million a year in monitoring fees if the country's 2,200 federal judges were provided with security systems.