Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Wednesday he'll make strengthening and expanding protections for judges and their families a priority in Congress this year after a sniper attack seriously injured a judge in Nevada last summer.
Reid, D-Nev., said he's joining key senators and House members in support of a bipartisan measure like the one he pushed for last Congress.
Chuck Weller, a Washoe County family court judge, was shot in the chest through the window of his Reno courthouse chambers on June 12 but has since recovered.
Weller had been hearing the divorce case of Darren Mack, a Reno
pawn shop owner who has been charged with attempted murder in that shooting as well as first-degree murder in the stabbing death
earlier that day of Mack's estranged wife, Charla.
"The urgent need for this legislation is especially important to the people of Nevada where someone attempted to take the life of Judge Weller of Reno just this past summer," Reid said Wednesday.
"I am committed to fast tracking this legislation - quickly passing this bill in the Senate and working with the House in order to get it to the president to become law," he said.
The proposed legislation, the Court Security Improvement Act of 2007, would provide new resources for states to improve security for state and local courts, he said.
It also would enhance penalties for tampering with or retaliating against witnesses, as well as provide new criminal penalties for the misuse of restricted personal information to threaten to seriously harm judges, their families or other individuals performing official duties.
Other key backers of the bill include Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and it's ranking members, Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa.
Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee introduced a companion bill in the House that is cosponsored by Rep. Robert C. "Bobby" Scott, D-Va., and Louie Gohmert, R-Texas.
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)