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Univ. of San Diego School of Law

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Thursday, August 7, 2008

U.S. Prosecutors Feel the Heat, Want Protection

In the wake of three murders and the recent attack on a federal prosecutor in a New York courtroom, a group representing the nation's federal prosecutors is calling for stepped-up security, including home alarms, self-defense training and the right to carry firearms.

Additionally, the National Association of Assistant U.S. Attorneys, which represents the country's 5,400 federal prosecutors, wants secure parking for prosecutors, particularly those who handle dangerous criminal cases.

"Statistically, we are threatened more than judges," said Steve Cook, chairman of the NAAUSA security committee and a Tennessee federal prosecutor. "Security is a very important issue for us."

In a recent NAAUSA survey (.pdf) on security issues answered by 1,257 federal prosecutors -- or 23 percent of the total work force -- 46 percent said they had been threatened or assaulted due to their job, and 81 percent said someone in their office had been threatened.

The survey showed that 78 percent rated secure parking as very important, and 42 percent rated home alarms very important. Eighty-one percent of respondents believe Assistant U.S. Attorneys should be authorized by the Department of Justice to carry firearms if they so choose.

NAAUSA officials last month met with Deputy Attorney General Mark Filip about security concerns for prosecutors and shared the survey results with him.

Additionally, the group plans to step up lobbying efforts next year for a bill to fund some of their proposals. Heavy lobbying last year led to prosecutors being partially included in the Court Security Act of 2007, which was originally intended only for judges.

Under the legislation, prosecutors will not get the same security measures as judges, such as home alarms; however they will now be protected from having their driver's license information made public.

"Prosecutors are on the front lines like federal agents; they are the face of federal law enforcement," said Peter Prieto, a former Miami federal prosecutor and chairman of Holland & Knight's litigation practice. "They are dealing with pretty dangerous people and have a legitimate gripe. For the job they do, they deserve more protection." [Mark Godsey]

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