- The US judiciary is seeking $US389.5 ($AU530) million to upgrade courthouses after 2020’s unrest.
- It was part of a wider $US1.5 ($AU2) billion request, which included $US515 ($AU700) million for cybersecurity upgrades.
- “The threat to federal courts is getting worse,” court officials said.
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The federal court system asked Congress for $US389.5 ($AU530) million to upgrade buildings and security across the US in the wake of escalating violence and vandalism.
“Over the past year, the federal Judiciary has suffered an increasing number of acts of violence and vandalism on and off courthouse premises,” wrote John W. Lungstrum, chair of Judicial Conference Committee on the Budget, and Roslynn R. Mauskopf, director of the Administrative Office of the US Courts, in a pair of letters sent to Congress earlier this month.
The request, part of a wider one totalling $US1.54 ($AU2) billion, came after an unprecedented year of vandalism and attacks on courthouses and staff, the letter said.
Although there was plenty of unrest in 2020, many protests were also carried out peacefully. Still, more than 50 federal courthouses were damaged during the year, according to the US court system. US Marshals counted 4,261 threats against judges and court personnel in 2020, a 360% increase from the year earlier.
“The threat to federal courts is getting worse,” the judiciary’s letter said. “A comprehensive approach is required to effectively address the growing violence and threats facing the judiciary.”
The letter listed several attacks, including the targeting of Esther Salas, a federal judge whose son was killed at her New Jersey home. In Arizona, a security officer was shot outside a federal courthouse. In California, a guard was killed in a drive-by shooting.
About $US267 ($AU363) million of the requested funds would go to upgrading “aging perimeter security” at federal courthouses.
At a congressional hearing in February, Mauskopf listed particular courthouses in need of upgrades. They included a federal courthouse in Augusta, Georgia, which Mauskopf called “our highest priority,” because it scored 26.2 out of 100 on a security scoring system.
Government buildings carry those security scores to show how vulnerable they are. In contrast, a recently upgraded federal courthouse in Brenton, Illinois, jumped from 46.1 to 80.2 after a $US4.7 ($AU6) million upgrade, Mauskopf said.
The request, which was sent to leaders of the House and Senate budget committees, also included $US515 ($AU700) million for cybersecurity protection. That money would go to both IT systems and modernization.