Maryland Considers Judicial Security Act to Safeguard Judges’ Personal Information

HAGERSTOWN, Maryland – In the aftermath of a tragic incident where a judge was killed in his own driveway, the Maryland General Assembly is considering legislation to safeguard judges’ personal information. Circuit Court Judge Andrew Wilkinson was shot and killed by Pedro Argote, a man who was furious about losing custody of his children. Argote had stalked Judge Wilkinson, finding his address online, and carried out the crime shortly after a court hearing. In support of the proposed Judge Andrew F. Wilkinson Judicial Security Act, Wilkinson’s widow testified to protect the personal information of judges and their families, receiving widespread support from judges across the state.

The act aims to shield judges’ home addresses, phone numbers, and Social Security numbers from public disclosure, as well as from being shared on the internet or social media platforms. The protective measures would also extend to judges’ spouses and children residing with them. Additionally, the act seeks to establish a task force to study and recommend ways to enhance courthouse safety in Maryland. Specific focus will be given to determining the adequate number of security officers required during courtroom proceedings. The task force is expected to present its report by January next year.

Violators of the proposed legislation could face misdemeanor charges, carrying penalties of jail time and fines. State Sen. Paul Corderman, whose father survived a similar attack when pipe bombs were sent to his home during his time as a judge in Washington County in the 1980s, sponsors the bill. Expressing determination to keep judges safe, Corderman lamented the loss of Judge Wilkinson, describing him as a genuine public servant. Last year, similar legislation failed to gain approval, but lawmakers hope that the recent tragedy will increase the chances of the bill passing this time around.

The incident has drawn attention to the pressing need for measures to safeguard judges and their families. Stephanie Wilkinson, the widow of Judge Wilkinson, expressed the devastating impact of the incident on her life. Despite attempting to console herself that her husband did not suffer, she acknowledged the shattered state of her heart when realizing his last moments were filled with fear.

The tragic event has sparked concern over the ease of finding judges’ personal information online. It remains unclear how Argote obtained Judge Wilkinson’s address, adding urgency to the need for protective legislation. The proposed act would serve as a pivotal step forward in enhancing the safety and security of judges, their families, and the overall judicial system in Maryland.

As the Maryland General Assembly earnestly deliberates this legislation, there is an atmosphere of hope that measures will be enacted to prevent such tragic incidents in the future. The loss of Judge Wilkinson has left a lasting impact, underscoring the critical importance of safeguarding those who serve within the judiciary.