Shielding judges' addresses from the public, enhanced security backed by Gov. Evers and others

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MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) -- After retired Wisconsin Judge John Roemer was killed in his home last week, some officials are considering adding more protections for judges.

It comes amid heightened attention on judges' security on the state and federal level.

Over 15 pieces of legislation have been introduced in 13 states seeking to shield the home addresses of judges and other court officials, according to the National Center for State Courts.

In Wisconsin, lawmakers have not proposed legislation to hide judges' personal information from the public, but some are open to revisiting current laws and adding protective measures after an uptick in attacks.

Governor Tony Evers believes it's a "reasonable solution" to remove addresses of judges online in wake of Roemer's death.

"Judges make difficult decisions every single day, and if that will keep them safe, that is what we should do," Evers said during a visit to Calumet County.

State Sen. Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee) thinks there's room to find compromise with Republicans on the issue.

"I think there might be an open conversation to have with Republicans to get that done," said Larson. "I think providing additional barriers would be good because it makes it that much harder if someone is feeling rash or emotional."

Six years ago, there was an effort to remove lawmakers' voting addresses on the state Legislature's website and in Wisconsin's government guidebook called the "Blue Book." It was a decision Larson said he "wasn't a fan of," citing transparency concerns.

"I think that's an important part of being a representative of the public, that people can find you and get ahold of you," said Larson.

The Milwaukee Democrat said the removal of lawmakers' addresses came after a string of national threats, including in 2016 when the U.S. Capitol and the White House were placed on lockdown after a gunman shot at officers while trying to enter the Capitol Visitor Center.

Since then, threats against federal buildings and judges have exploded.

The U.S Marshals Service reported more than 4,500 threats and inappropriate comments against federal judges and prosecutors last year.

UW-Madison Political Science Professor Ryan Owens, who dropped out of the Attorney General's race last year, said beyond legislation there's a broader systemic issue that needs to be addressed.

"Why is it okay to attack other people for their political views without seeing that they may have legitimate ideas?" Owens said. "These are public stewards and they deserve protection. It's not easy to run for office."

Federal Judicial Security Bill Blocked

An attempt to unanimously pass a bipartisan bill to shield federal judges' personal information online was blocked last month by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) because he wanted lawmakers included in the proposal.

Sen. Paul said he agreed with the concept of the bill but argued lawmakers should have the same protections.

It comes after U.S. District Judge Esther Salas pleaded for Congress to act in wake of her son's murder. In 2020, a man stalked Salas before entering her home, wounding her husband and killing their only son, Daniel.

The Daniel Anderl Judicial Security and Privacy Act of 2021 is currently stalled in the House Judiciary Committee.

Calls for security measures for judges and justices also came after a leaked draft opinion suggested the U.S. Supreme Court is poised to overturn Roe v. Wade, which resulted in protests outside several justices' homes.

In wake of the incidents, the Senate passed the Supreme Court Parity Act to extend protections to the justices' families.

“If you dislike what they are doing, you can protest in front of the court, at the Capitol, but we need to remember these are public servants and we need to treat them with respect,” Owens said.

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