By Eric Levenson and Boris Sanchez, CNN
Days after a former Wisconsin judge was killed in his home, a federal judge whose son was killed in a similar targeted attack nearly two years ago has reiterated her efforts to better protect the justice system.
“My reaction is heartache. My heart is broken. Another family is going to have to endure what Mark and I have been going through for 23 months now,” U.S. District Court Judge Esther Salas told CNN on Sunday. is insane. It’s dangerous. And we need to start protecting judges across the country. »
Salas spoke to CNN two days after former Juneau County Circuit Court Judge John Roemer, 68, was killed at his home in New Lisbon, Wis., in what appeared to be a targeted attack, the state Justice Department said in a statement. The suspect has a criminal history in the state dating back to at least 2002, when he was convicted of armed robbery and firearms, and the case came before Judge Roemer in 2005, according to court records.
Judge Salas has personal experience of such a tragedy. In July 2020, a gunman disguised as a delivery man arrived at her New Jersey home, killed her son Daniel Anderl and injured her husband.
The shooter, Roy Den Hollander, was a terminally ill lawyer and men’s rights activist who had previously argued a case before Salas and, on his website, disparaged her in racist and sexist terms. He was found dead in New York after the shooting of what was believed to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Speaking on Sunday, Salas said the killing of Judge Roemer was part of what judges have to deal with every day in the line of duty.
“Many judges lost their lives for doing one thing: their job, defending democracy,” she said. “Really, judges are on the front lines of making sure that democracy is, you know, alive and well in our country.”
The US Marshals Service has reported an increase in threats against judges in recent years. Threats and inappropriate comments directed at justice nearly doubled from 2016 to 2018 and have remained at a high level — around 4,500 in 2021 — since, according to the Marshals Service. U.S. Marshals are responsible for protecting approximately 2,700 judges, as well as 30,000 federal prosecutors and court officials.
Since her son’s death, Salas has pushed for legislation known as the Daniel Anderl Judicial Security and Privacy Act. The bill would protect the privacy of current and former federal judges and their families by retaining personal information such as home addresses and vehicle information in databases and public records.
“We are in a unique position. We preside over cases and 50% of the time people are not happy with us,” Salas said. “If the death of my 20-year-old son and now Judge Roemer doesn’t say we need to do something to protect this personally identifiable information, I don’t know what will.”
The bill has bipartisan sponsors in the U.S. Senate and House, but failed to pass by unanimous consent last month due to an objection from Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, who said that it should be expanded to include members of Congress.
The nonprofit group Fix the Court, which has lobbied for greater transparency in the federal court system, also noted concerns about certain terms in the bill that could potentially limit information relevant to the public interest.
Wisconsin suspect had targeted list, source says
Wisconsin Judge Douglas K. Uhde, 56, was found in the basement of the home with an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound and is in critical condition, the Department of Justice said. Wisconsin Justice.
The suspect also appeared to have other targets related to the justice system, Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul said. Those targets included Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a source familiar with the investigation told CNN. Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s office said Saturday that her name was also on the shooter’s target list.
Uhde has not been charged for the judge’s murder. CNN was unable to determine if he had an attorney.
Roemer, the former state judge, was first elected to the bench in 2004 and was reelected in 2010 and 2016. He retired in August 2017.
“Justice Roemer has dedicated much of his career to public service in the area of justice,” Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice Annette Kingsland Ziegler said in a statement. “Before being named a judge in 2004, he served as an assistant district attorney and an assistant state public defender. He was known to his colleagues for his sharp legal mind and his willingness to share his time and knowledge with others. .
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CNN’s Omar Jimenez and Whitney Wild contributed to this report.