Meck County judges call for protection after they say rulings lead to real threats

CHARLOTTE — Mecklenburg County judges are calling for protection after they said their rulings have led to real threats against their lives.

Channel 9′s Allison Latos uncovered a letter that they plan to send to lawmakers laying out the statewide changes they’re seeking.

The judges at the Mecklenburg County Courthouse said presiding over cases comes with real-life consequences, not only for the people they sentence. They said those decisions have put their families in danger and now they want lawmakers to do something about it.

“Death, harm to our family. Death to our family members, our children as a result of doing our job,” Judge Kimberly Best said when asked what she fears.

Best said that in her 14 years as a judge, she had been scared that her decision could put her family in danger -- and she had not been the only judge worried.

“I’ve had a car keyed after a judicial decision after I became a judge. I’ve been threatened,” Best said. “Two juvenile judges were threatened by a juvenile accused of murder. We’ve had one judge who was threatened by someone with mental health issues.”

Nationwide, judges have faced violence.

In 2005, a man on trial for rape, shot and killed an Atlanta judge and court reporter. And in June, a retired Wisconsin judge was killed. The accused gunman was a man who he had previously sentenced to prison.

In 2020, a federal judge’s son was murdered, and the suspect was a man who had been in her courtroom.

“There needs to be some sense of safety,” Best said.

Local judges sent a letter to the Mecklenburg County Legislative Delegation, asking for a law like the Judicial Privacy Act, which passed in 2012 in Illinois.

>>Read the letter here.

“They are able to block their homes addresses. For example, from a public record,” said Sen. John Cullerton (D-Chicago), who introduced that bill. “If anyone is injured as a result of someone getting this information, there is even a criminal penalty. You also can do to internet providers and say you have 72 hours to take my person info off of this, and if they don’t do it, there’s a lawsuit you can file.”

Without that privacy, judges said they have turned to deputies and police for protection, from monitored parking spaces to security that could last months.

There’s also an effort to limit access to federal judges’ private information -- it’s called Daniel’s Law -- but has stalled in Congress.

Mecklenburg County Sen. Natasha Marcus said she stands ready to consider possible legislative solutions to guard the safety of judges.

(WATCH BELOW: Wisconsin attorney general: Former judge fatally shot at home, was ‘targeted’)