The Justice Department's internal watchdog determined the U.S. Marshals Service lacks the necessary resources to provide adequate security for federal judges.
Inspector General Michael Horowitz released a report on Wednesday noting budgetary issues have left the agency ill-equipped for its task of protecting 2,700 federal judges, federal prosecutors, and other court officials.
"The U.S. Marshals Service does not have the resources or proactive threat detection capabilities it needs to meet its important mission to protect federal judges, courts, and judicial employees," Horowitz said.
Horowitz reported an 81% increase in "threats or inappropriate communications against protected persons" in 2020 as compared to 2016. In that time frame, the agency's budget has increased by 49%, the inquiry found.
This comes after the killing of the son of Esther Salas, a federal judge in New Jersey, who was shot and killed in July 2020 by a gunman who had been tracking her family, according to investigators. That case brought increased attention to the issue over the last year.
The DOJ watchdog said the Marshals Service lacks the "threat detection capabilities" to assess the "current threat landscape," which they assert has largely moved online.
The report concluded the agency is understaffed and underfunded. The department's current budget request seeks over $30 million in additional funding.
The inspector general made eight recommendations to the agency, including a review on whether it has an adequate number of district threat investigators and a look at updating the home security systems made available to the judges.
The agency agreed with all eight recommendations, the watchdog added.
"The U.S. Marshals are responsible for the protection of the federal judicial process, and we take that responsibility very seriously," a spokesperson for the agency told the Wall Street Journal. "Ensuring that the judicial process operates independently and free from harm or intimidation is paramount to the rule of law and the reduction of violent crime."
"Our constitutional system depends on judges who can make decisions without fear of reprisal or retribution," the Judicial Conference, the policy-making body for federal courts, said in a letter to senators involved in approving the DOJ's budget. "This is essential not just for the safety of judges and their families, but also to protect our democracy."
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Original Author: Haley Victory Smith