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A judge's plea

From Brian Todd

Wolf Blitzer Reports

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Shadowed by a U.S. marshal as she entered a Senate chamber, U.S. District Judge Joan Lefkow described a void since the day her husband and mother were murdered -- a day she calls her family's personal 9/11.

"The father who sent every report card to Grandma so she could also rejoice in what the children accomplished is no longer there -- and neither is the grandmother, who made each of her 20 grandchildren and great-grandchildren believe that that grandchild was her special favorite," Lefkow said.

On February 28 Lefkow's husband and mother were found shot to death inside the family's Chicago-area home.

Just days later, a former litigant, angry with Lefkow for dismissing his case, committed suicide, leaving a note confessing to the murders.

"I'm the wife who wakes up in the morning, not to a cup of coffee presented by my husband of 30 years to reopen what we called the 'endless conversation of marriage,' but to an open book that I was reading, in an effort to banish the memories of 5:30 p.m. on the day our world changed forever," Lefkow testified.

That day provoked an often-bitter debate about the U.S. Marshals service.

At the time, Lefkow was not under protection, had not asked for it and was unaware of any threat.

Since then, federal judges have complained loudly that the marshals are under funded, understaffed and often, unable to protect them.

"Marshals from the districts are confidentially reporting to us -- they'll get fired if they do it publicly -- but they are reporting to us what their staffing patterns are, how those staffing patterns are going down in recent years," says U.S. Circuit Court Judge Jane Roth.

She lays that responsibility at the feet of the Bush administration.

But the head of the Marshals service defends his boss.

"The president's budget, had it been fully funded as requested, we would have achieved an additional 462 positions that are vitally needed in every district and every area of the Marshals service," says Benigno Reyna, the director of the U.S. Marshals Service.

The Marshals say help is on the way in the form of $12 million just approved by Congress and the White House for home security systems for federal judges.

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