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New security task force aimed at protecting Maryland judges

New security task force aimed at protecting Maryland judges
New security task force aimed at protecting Maryland judges 01:48

BALTIMORE - A new task force will look at ways to protect Maryland judges.

This comes two months after Washington County Circuit Court Judge Andrew Wilkinson was gunned down in his driveway in Hagerstown.

According to court records, Wilkinson presided over a divorce case. 

He denied Pedro Argote custody of his younger children after hearing allegations of abuse from Argote's wife and adult daughter, the court records show. 

Later that night, police said Argote drove to Wilkinson's home and fatally shot him in his driveway. 

"This was a targeted attack on Judge Wilkinson," Washington County Sheriff Brian Albert said.

Argote was found dead in a wooded area of Williamsport after a week-long manhunt. 

The case shocked the community and brought about a statewide push to protect judges.

"There's been a change in protocol throughout the state on judges, just to be a little vigilant with [their safety] in the county and the state," Albert said.

This week, Maryland Supreme Court Chief Justice Matthew Fader announced a new security task force to enhance safety for Maryland judges. 

The task force is made up of nearly 30 judicial officers, and judiciary staff, who will identify best practices in courthouse security, recommend improvements, and review how threats against judicial officers and staff are handled. 

Threats against federal judges and other court personnel are a nationwide concern. 

The U.S. Marshals Service reported a 387 percent increase in threats from 2015 to 2021. 

In 2020, a man targeting U.S. District Judge Esther Salas killed her only son at her New Jersey home after finding her address and personal information online. 

Last year, Congress passed a law safeguarding the personally identifiable information of federal judges and their close relatives. The Daniel Anderl Act is named after Salas' late son. 

"We are so proud to be Daniel's parents. Thank you honey, we love you," Salas said. 

Daniel's law protects federal judges, but lawmakers in Maryland are working on legislation to give state judges and their families the power to remove personal information from online sources. 

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