Security will be tight when federal judges from around the West meet this month in Coeur d'Alene, just a few miles south of the headquarters of a Nazi-like organization that views the jurists as its enemies.
Despite a recommendation from the U.S. Marshals Service that the 9th Circuit Judicial Conference be held elsewhere, an estimated 500 federal judges, magistrates, lawyers and their spouses are expected here Aug. 16-19. Organizers say two and possibly three U.S. Supreme Court justices and attorney general-designate Richard Thornburgh are expected to attend."It seems like you're taking the henhouse to the wolves," said Charles "Bucky" Burrows, a Marshals Service security expert. Burrows and another court security expert, Larry Chance, urged the judges to select another site.
A similar gathering of Idaho judges in July proceeded without incident.
"It would be inappropriate, in my opinion, for the federal judiciary to turn tail and run over a few neo-Nazis in North Idaho," said U.S. District Judge Robert McNichols, the chief federal judge in Spokane, Wash.
The Aryan Nations and a violent splinter faction, The Order, view the federal judiciary as the embodiment of what the extremists call the "Zionist Occupation Government."
"I think it's a poor location, and we just let it be known that there was an alternative," Chance said of Coeur d'Alene. "However, we in the Marshals Service don't make the decision. Needless to say, security will be beefed up."
A dozen marshals provided security at a similar conference last year in Hawaii. At Coeur d'Alene, at least 50 marshals are expected to provide security.
Changing the conference's location "would be a slap in the face to the people of Coeur d'Alene," McNichols said. "We're not going to do that because of a small group of extremists."
Blaine Skinner, the marshal in charge of conference security, agreed with McNichols.
Burrows, of Sacramento, Calif., visited the area last year and recommended another location because of "the Aryan threat."
"And I still have that opinion," he said. "I just felt the closeness was kind of a dare to the Aryans to do something. I just have this bad feeling that we're getting too close to the fire."
Events include a cruise on Lake Coeur d'Alene and dinners at the Hayden Lake Country Club, a short distance from the Aryan Nations compound at Hayden Lake.