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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