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Shootings, Bomb Threats at Courthouses and Law Firms

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By William Vogeler, Esq. on August 22, 2017 12:59 PM

Judge Joseph J. Bruzzese Jr. was walking to the courthouse when a man ran up and started shooting at him.

Bruzzese was carrying a gun and returned fire. A probation officer joined the shoot-out, which killed the attacker and injured the judge.

At a time when so many people turn to violence in the guise of seeking justice, it is a solemn reminder that judges and lawyers need more than cybersecurity.

Get a Weapon

Nathaniel Richmond,51, had appeared in the judge's courtroom before and was waiting for him. Jefferson County Sheriff Fred. J. Abdalla had warned the Ohio judge years ago to protect himself.

"With all the nuts running around, I encouraged him to get a weapon," Abdalla said. "And he did."

On the same day in New York, another judge ordered the arrest of a man who threatened to blow up a law firm. He had been free on bail on charges of making a terrorist threat, but showed up in court and harassed the judge.

Joseph Amico, 46, was arrested after going before a judge on charges he vowed to blow up the office of attorney Douglas Wigdor, who he allegedly called a "n----- lover."

101 California Street

With Charlottesville at center stage, violence and justice has a twisted history in America. It was not so long ago that the legal profession was rocked by the worst mass shooting ever in San Francisco.

A gunman, armed with rapid-fire weapons, walked through a law office at 101 California Street and began shooting. He killed eight and wounded six others.

July 1, 1993 changed lives and the law business for many. Law firms and courthouses heightened security. Legislators enacted tougher gun laws, including the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994.

For people like Judge Bruzzese and countless legal professionals, however, it's time for more security. Karen J. Mathis, writing for the ABA Journal says, that includes better policies and practices in the workplace, including defensive hiring and a crisis safety plan.

"If these strategies sound like tactics for war, they are," she says. "The frequency and escalating nature of the violence that surrounds us necessitates a battle plan to combat it."

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