Judicial Security: Safeguarding Courts and Protecting Judges


Fall/Winter 2020–21 | Volume 104 Number 3 | Download PDF Version of Article

Efforts to strengthen security for judges and their families took on new urgency this year in the wake of the horrific murder of U.S. District Court Judge Esther Salas’s son in their family home in New Jersey. But protecting judges and courts has never been more difficult or expensive. Courthouses require ever-more sophisticated security and screening equipment and procedures. Judges are subject to threats far beyond the courtroom due to the wide availability of personal information online. And the day-to-day business of the courts can be brought to a screeching halt in an instant — and held hostage for weeks — by a cyber attacker in a dark closet halfway around the world.

The following articles address various topics related to ensuring the safety and wellbeing of our courts and judicial officers. The challenges are vast. But as McKeague writes, “justice must be dispensed with neither fear nor favor. When judges are fearful, it impedes their ability to do their jobs” — and threatens our courts’ ability to administer justice.

Contracting the Virus: Not if, but When

by David Slayton

A case study for responding to a Russian cyber attack that impacted Texas state appellate courts and judicial agencies in May 2020 Full article »

Modernizing Security Measures to Protect Federal Judges and Their Families

by David McKeague

An overview of renewed calls for Congress to enhance laws protecting federal judges and to increase funding for updated and enhanced security measures Full article »

Assessing Safety and Security Challenges in State Courts

by Mary Ellen Barbera and Joseph Baxter

An outline of a new effort in the state courts to improve understanding of the state of judicial security and provide guidance to state and local courts where funding, personnel, and technical resources vary widely Full article »

About Judicature Staff

Published three times per year by the Bolch Judicial Institute of Duke Law, Judicature contains articles by judges, scholars, and practitioners on topics that include the rule of law, law reform, emerging legal issues, challenges in the legal system and judiciary, judicial independence, and the daily work of a judge, as well as empirical research that informs our understanding of the judiciary.