An openly misogynistic lawyer who is believed to have killed the son of a female federal judge in New Jersey had a list of more than a dozen other possible targets, including three other judges and two doctors, several people with knowledge of the matter said. The list of names was found on July 20, 2020, inside a rental car on a rural road in the Catskills in New York, where the lawyer, Ron Den Hollander, had killed himself.
Hours before he took his own life, law enforcement officials believe that he walked up to a house belonging to Judge Esther Salas on a suburban street in North Brunswick, NJ, and fatally shot her 20-year-old son when he answered the door. He also critically injured her husband. The judge escaped unharmed.
Investigators have now concluded that Mr. Hollander traveled eight days earlier by train to California to murder Marc Angelucci, 52, a men’s rights lawyer whom he considered a professional rival. Mr. Angelucci was also shot on his doorstep. Judge Salas and Mr. Angelucci were included on the list found in the rental car, along with at least ten other people with whom Mr. Hollander apparently had scores to settle, including three judges. While his exact motive for making the list remains unclear, Mr. Hollander had received a terminal cancer diagnosis, and F.B.I. agents earlier this month were exploring whether that news set him off on a mission of revenge against those he believed were his enemies.
Mr. Hollander described himself as an anti-feminist and had made a career out of filing lawsuits, some of them frivolous, alleging discrimination against men. He also published blog posts in 2006 arguing women were inferior to men and advocating physical violence against them. In one post, he said women should be strapped to bombs and dropped in the Middle East. He sued Manhattan nightclubs for offering ladies’ night discounts and sued the federal government over a law that protects women from violence. He also filed a suit claiming that Columbia University’s women’s studies program was unfair to men.
Mr. Hollander’s grievances against Judge Salas and Mr. Angelucci apparently stemmed from the same case. In 2015, he filed a federal lawsuit in federal court in Newark challenging the male-only military draft and the case was assigned to Judge Salas. Mr. Angelucci had filed a similar lawsuit in another jurisdiction two years earlier. Late last year, a federal court there ruled in Mr. Angelucci’s favor, finding that the exclusion of women from the draft was unconstitutional. The case is now on appeal.
In his online writings, a bitter Mr. Hollander, well aware that Mr. Angelucci prevailed in his lawsuit, blamed Judge Salas for moving too slowly with his case, insulting her and claiming that she was a beneficiary of affirmative action. How often does killing, attempted killing, or assault of judges or other court officials happen in the United States?
This tragic story about Judge Salas’s family has highlighted a disturbing trend that authorities fear is on the rise—threats against federal judges and their families. It appears that the number of these disgruntled individuals appears to be growing. Reports at the federal level show a steady increase throughout the1990s in inappropriate communications or contacts (IC&Cs) directed toward federal jurists. The number of IC&Cs reported to the U.S. Marshals Service rose from a couple of hundred a year in the early 1990s to more than 700 in 2004. Since 1979, three federal judges have been killed. In March 2005, a former claimant and suspect confessed to killing a federal judge’s husband and mother. Prior to 1979, only one federal judge was killed. Clearly, a shift occurred that resulted in a significant increase in the risk to federal judicial officials.
No comparable national data have yet been compiled on the risks to state and local judicial officials. Informal research by the National Sheriffs’ Association (NSA) suggests that during the past thirty-five years, eight state or local judges have been killed. Another thirteen were physically assaulted. Three local prosecutors were killed, four assaulted. At least five law enforcement officers have been killed at local courthouses, twenty-seven assaulted. At least forty-two court participants have been killed at local courthouses and fifty-three assaulted. In March 2005, a Fulton County, Georgia, jail prisoner delayed his escape long enough to seek out the judge presiding at his trial. After overpowering a deputy sheriff, he killed the judge and a court reporter in the courtroom, then killed another deputy sheriff outside the courthouse.
A 1999 survey of 1,029 Pennsylvania state judges found that 51.8 percent reported being the target of an IC&C sometime during the previous year. In addition, more than 25 percent of the 1,029 state judges were physically approached, 1.2 percent were assaulted, and—more telling—over one-third admitted that they had changed their judicial conduct as a result of the experience. Judges compelled to change their judicial conduct may sacrifice justice for security. On the other hand, some may start actually following the laws they are sworn to uphold. The impact extends beyond the individual jurists and goes directly to the ability of government at the state, local, or federal levels to make justice available to its citizenry.
What is most surprising about these statistics is that attacks upon judges and other court officials are not more common. Considering that there are approximately 1,700 federal judges and 30,000 state judges, many of whom do not follow the law or who disregard the U.S. Constitution, and considering that there are far in excess of 100 million cases being filed annually in U.S. trial courts, it almost seems impossible that there would not be more attempts on the lives of these glorified lawyers in black gowns. Even conservatively assuming that a mere 1% of judges commit crimes on the bench or at least shirk their duties and therefore cause irreparable harm to litigants and assuming only 0.1% of those disgruntled litigants would take revenge, this means that we should expect about 1,000 killings or assaults every year. Clearly this hasn’t yet happened.....or if it has, the mainstream media is not reporting it.