Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD) today voted to increase funding for enhancing the security of Federal court buildings, strengthens the laws protecting judges, family members, and witnesses, and makes carrying a "dangerous weapon" into a Federal court facility illegal. Sen. Cardin is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which today passed the Court Security Improvement Act of 2005.
"The safety of judges, witnesses and courtroom officers is absolutely critical to properly carrying out justice," said Sen. Cardin, a co-sponsor of the legislation. "Judges and witnesses often show a great deal of courage by speaking out in particular cases. We must make sure they're as safe as possible."
The Court Security Improvement Act of 2007 was introduced by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA) and creates criminal penalties for retaliating against a federal judge or law enforcement officer by filing a false claim or slander and for publishing restricted information about protected officials and their family members. It will extend the protection US Marshals to cover federal tax courts and authorizes an additional $20 million to hire more Marshals to protect existing court facilities. The Court Security Improvement Act will also create need-based federal grants for state courts to improve their security.
Current federal law only makes knowingly carrying a firearm into a federal court facility illegal. This bill extends the law to cover all "dangers weapons" (firearms, knives, swords, etc.), reducing the risk of violence within the court facility. It also increases penalties for tampering or intimidating a witness, victim, or informant while authorizing an additional $20 million to states to protect witnesses and victims of crimes.
Equally important to maintaining the security of court facilities and protecting witnesses and victims is making sure that judicial officers are held to the highest ethical standards. This bill reauthorizes the Ethics in Government Act, requiring federal judges to report all income (source and amount) not coming from the government and a description of prior employment.