In Wake of Tucson Shootings, a 'Distracted' Time For Judges

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Even though Arizona Chief U.S. District Judge John M. Roll was not the intended target of Jared Lee Loughner's assualt Saturday morning, the Tucson massacre has raised legitimate questions about judicial protection and security. On Sunday, I asked another federal trial judge, who, like Judge Roll, has faced his share of threats over the years, to share with me a few of his thoughts about what happened. He responded:

"What is not thought of or talked about relative to these threats and follow-up protection is the effect on a judge's ability to think about the cases and the law.  With gun toting Deputy Marshals, good people all, within arm's reach, it's pretty hard to think about anything other than security.  The whole experience is very distracting and the public suffers in the sense that the judge can't do his/her best in such circumstances.  With Judge Roll's death and the possibilty of copycat activity, I'm sure that all judges are to some extent, some more than others, distracted.  What is virtually certain is that the support units of the court such as the U.S. Marshal's Service and the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts will be much more distracted from their appointed rounds."

I suspect that some judges are more distracted than others this week. It's also a good bet, from the statistics, that at least one more judge has been threatened, in some fashion, since Saturday. I hope the Congress, the White House, the Justice Department, the U.S. Marshals Service and the nation's tribunes don't forget that -- and Judge Roll -- when they begin to respond to Tucson in deeds, not words.

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Andrew Cohen is a contributing editor at The Atlantic. He is a legal analyst for 60 Minutes and CBS Radio News, and a fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice.

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