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Former NY Chief Judge's Security Detail Example of General Abuses

Janet DiFiore, New York’s former chief judge, may have used her security escort to communicate status while security took a back seat, Law360 reports. Her protection detail was the largest in the history of the state court system. It was most visible during low-risk events with high-ranking officials and disappeared during the higher-risk nighttime hours in the final months of her detail. It illustrates what the court’s top public safety officials quietly acknowledge: Security decisions are often made with political influence. Judicial security experts told Law360 that when scarce resources are deployed based on politics instead of procedure, the judiciary is more vulnerable to real threats. "A system based on politics and favors creates a security and safety gap," said John Muffler, a 23-year veteran of the U.S. Marshals Service.

A spokesperson for the state courts said Chief Judge Rowan Wilson's new administration was mulling "modifications" to its practices. There is no record of how DiFiore's detail was approved. In response to past inquiries, the state court spokesperson said judges were assigned drivers for both security and practical reasons. While she served as chief judge, DiFiore had an around-the-clock escort of six to eight court officers. After resigning, she kept a detail of state-paid officers on call in the daytime as a private citizen, based in part on her former job as Westchester County district attorney. No other past chief judge has had such a security detail, which Law360 previously reported cost taxpayers about $1 million a year, four times the value of her annual salary. As a private citizen, DiFiore racked up about a thousand miles a month with her post-resignation detail. DiFiore's unprecedented detail has come under scrutiny from lawmakers following her resignation last summer. DiFiore, through a spokesperson, denied any involvement in creating her escort. "The former chief judge did not make any requests or have any role in determining the parameters of the security detail assigned to protect her," said Josh Vlasto, adding that the court's public safety officials made that decision.


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