U.S. judiciary receives big security funding boost in spending bill

REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz
  • Omnibus spending bill includes $704.8 million for court security
  • Provision formalizes program to help judges remove personal information from internet

(Reuters) - The federal judiciary is receiving a big boost in funding for security amid heightened concerns about threats facing judges as part of a $1.5 trillion spending measure the U.S. Congress passed to keep government programs operating through Sept. 30.

The wide-ranging, 2,700-page appropriations measure that the Senate approved on a 68-31 vote late Thursday includes $704.8 million in funding for court security, a 6.1% increase from what the judiciary received in the prior fiscal year.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed the measure on Wednesday, and the White House said President Joe Biden plans to sign it.

Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com

David Sellers, a spokesman for the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, said in a statement on Friday the judiciary appreciated that Congress fully funded its court security program with the $40.8 million boost in appropriations.

"The funding level in the omnibus will enable us to continue modernizing courthouse security systems and begin efforts to harden courthouses to better protect court facilities from individuals or groups seeking to disrupt the judicial process," he said.

Judicial officials in a recent letter asked lawmakers to approve a supplemental request for an additional $515.5 million on top of the $7.9 billion Congress approved this week to address "urgent" security and cybersecurity needs. That request remains pending.

Ronald Davis, the head of the U.S. Marshals Service, last month said that federal judges had been the target of more than 4,500 threats and other inappropriate communications last year and that his office is concerned about the rise of domestic extremism.

The security funding Congress approved includes money to fund a program aimed at identifying and pursuing the voluntary removal of judges' personal information from the internet.

Sellers said the judiciary was seeking approval of a judiciary security bill that would strengthen such efforts.

That legislation, the Daniel Anderl Judicial Security and Privacy Act, was named for the deceased son of U.S. District Judge Esther Salas, who was killed in an attack at the New Jersey judge's home in July 2020 by a disgruntled lawyer.

That bill would, among other things, allow federal judges to redact personal information displayed on government websites and bars people and businesses from publishing such information online if they have made a written request not to do so.

The Senate Judiciary Committee on a bipartisan vote advanced the bill in December, but the legislation has since stalled. Some civil liberties and judiciary reform advocates have expressed concern that it violates free speech rights.

(NOTE: This story has been updated with details about a supplemental appropriations request by the judiciary.)

Read more:

U.S. Senate passes $1.5 trillion government funding bill with Ukraine aid

U.S. judges faced over 4,500 threats in 2021 amid rising extremism -official

U.S. Senate panel advances judicial security bill after N.J. attack

Latina judge from New Jersey breaks silence two weeks after attacker kills her son

Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Thomson Reuters

Nate Raymond reports on the federal judiciary and litigation. He can be reached at nate.raymond@thomsonreuters.com.