Safety in the legal world

July 9, 2008
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The recent abduction of an Anderson attorney by his client raised an issue I don’t see discussed much – the safety risks of working in the legal field. Attorneys and judges work in a high-stress environment where court decisions can greatly impact lives. Tensions run high in many divorce cases, custody battles, lawsuits, and criminal cases. Sometimes clients can’t cope with that stress and take it out the person they see responsible for their demise – their attorney or the judge.

Attacks against attorneys aren’t uncommon. Just more than a year ago, an Indianapolis attorney helped save a Fort Wayne lawyer from being pushed over the fourth-floor rotunda railing at the Tippecanoe County Courthouse. The attacker? A Lafayette man angry about the judge’s decision involving an insurance case in which the man’s wife was injured.

Three years ago, a U.S. District judge in Chicago found her attorney-husband and mother shot dead in her basement. The killer was a Chicago man who was angry Judge Joan Humphrey Lefkow had dismissed his lawsuit against the medical industry. Apparently, the man was looking for the judge, who wasn’t at home at the time of the murders. The man killed himself after police pulled him over for an equipment violation on his car.

Just yesterday, Anderson attorney Thomas Hamer was tied up by his client Richard Hudson, who was out of jail to attend a Social Security disability hearing in Indianapolis. Hudson abducted the lawyer after deciding he didn’t want to go back to jail. Hudson later let the attorney go and stole Hamer’s car, but he has yet to be caught.

Unfortunately, there are even more examples from around the country of violence against attorneys and judges. As someone who works in the legal profession and handles intense cases where emotions run high, is safety an issue that’s always in the back of your mind when you represent a client or make a ruling? You can’t predict how the client or party in the case will react, so can you even prepare a plan to protect yourself?
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  1. Your article is a good intro the recent amendments to Fed.R.Civ.P. For a much longer - though not necessarily better -- summary, counsel might want to read THE CHIEF UMPIRE IS CHANGING THE STRIKE ZONE, which I co-authored and which was just published in the January issue of THE VERDICT (the monthly publication of the Indiana Trial Lawyers Association).

  2. Thank you, John Smith, for pointing out a needed correction. The article has been revised.

  3. The "National institute for Justice" is an agency for the Dept of Justice. That is not the law firm you are talking about in this article. The "institute for justice" is a public interest law firm. http://ij.org/ thanks for interesting article however

  4. I would like to try to find a lawyer as soon possible I've had my money stolen off of my bank card driver pressed charges and I try to get the information they need it and a Social Security board is just give me a hold up a run around for no reason and now it think it might be too late cuz its been over a year I believe and I can't get the right information they need because they keep giving me the runaroundwhat should I do about that

  5. It is wonderful that Indiana DOC is making some truly admirable and positive changes. People with serious mental illness, intellectual disability or developmental disability will benefit from these changes. It will be much better if people can get some help and resources that promote their health and growth than if they suffer alone. If people experience positive growth or healing of their health issues, they may be less likely to do the things that caused them to come to prison in the first place. This will be of benefit for everyone. I am also so happy that Indiana DOC added correctional personnel and mental health staffing. These are tough issues to work with. There should be adequate staffing in prisons so correctional officers and other staff are able to do the kind of work they really want to do-helping people grow and change-rather than just trying to manage chaos. Correctional officers and other staff deserve this. It would be great to see increased mental health services and services for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities in the community so that fewer people will have to receive help and support in prisons. Community services would like be less expensive, inherently less demeaning and just a whole lot better for everyone.

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