March 02, 2005
RIP, Michael Lefkow and Donna Humphrey

I heard about the awful, gruesome murders of Michael Lefkow and Donna Humphrey, husband and mother of Judge Joan Lefkow, yesterday, but wasn't really in the right frame of mind to write about it then. Judge Lefkow has been under a death threat from the terrorist Matt Hale and his followers since she ruled against them in a trademark-infringement lawsuit. She and her family had had protection from the US Marshall's office, even after Hale was put in jail for plotting her death, but it was eventually removed after the threats were deemed "not viable".

I want to quote Eric Zorn here, because I think he sums up how I feel about this very well:

We don't yet know why attorney Michael F. Lefkow 64, and Donna Grace Humphrey, 89, were shot multiple times in the family's basement. Among other possibilities, they may have been victims of a wandering sociopath, a startled or murderous home invader or a killer with a grudge against the family unrelated to Judge Lefkow's position.

What we do know is that the ability of judges and other public officials to make decisions without fearing for their lives or, worse, the lives of their loved ones is key to our way of life.

We know that fear is corrupting, corrosive, malignant, metastatic. It's toxic to freedom, the enemy of justice.

We see more than our share of mayhem in this country-random, predatory; purposeful, senseless. But what we don't see, or haven't seen in a long time, are orchestrated hits on key government, law enforcement and business officials of the sort we associate with third-world thugocracies and nations nearly paralyzed by terrorism.


Why not here? It's just not how we've done things. I'll leave further explanations and analysis to the political scientists, sociologists and psychologists.

But the status quo is fragile. That's why this story feels so terribly ominous.

Any organized, politically motivated attack on a judge or a judge's family is an attack on a core presumption that shapes our daily lives - that major decision makers operate free from the fear of organized intimidation, extortion and bloody revenge.

If that precious presumption shatters, we risk turning into one of those nations where the powerful and famous live in cocoons protected by thick walls, deadbolts, bulletproof glass and armed guards They scurry from place to place, an eye always out for killers and kidnappers.

Political courage is backed by blood and underwritten by terrible risk. Moral bravery is about more than just words.

It's too early to conclude that the presumption suffered a serious crack Monday afternoon in Judge Joan Lefkow's basement.

But it's not too early to hope that it didn't.

I've written before that my dad was a judge for 14 years in New York. In the course of that time, he collected several death threats, inlcuding at least one that was considered "viable" enough to warrant police protection for awhile. Nothing came of them other than the installation of an alarm in the house, which in turn led to more than one comedy-of-errors false alarm due to my family's innate inability to adapt to new technology in a timely manner (I seem to have gotten the recessive genes on that front). That's no surprise, since most of the losers that issues a death threat against a judge couldn't organize a trip to Denny's, let alone a contract hit. But it only takes one, and that's a realization that always nestles in the back of your mind you trade gallows humor quips with your dad about it. Let's just say that there's more than one reason why I'm glad he and my mom retired out West.

My heart goes out to Judge Joan Lefkow, her five daughters, and all the other family and friends of Michael Lefkow and Donna Humphrey. May you someday find peace and security again, and may the person or persons responsible for this vicious and heinous crime be captured and punished swiftly and severely.

One last thing I want to mention, also from Eric Zorn, is that the ruling Judge Lefkow handed down against Hale was forced upon her by an appeals court. She had ruled in his favor but her decision was overturned. Hale focused his hatred on her anyway.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on March 02, 2005 to Crime and Punishment | TrackBack

And on a more general note, exactly how do these people, et. al. not fit the definition of terrorist?

I fail to appreciate the government's refusal to treat them as such and think Gitmo/Abu Ghraib would be only appropriate

Posted by: Charles M on March 2, 2005 3:35 PM

Sadly, the appeals court didn't have a jewish husband.

Posted by: julia on March 2, 2005 5:34 PM

Let me try to get your help with something else - the Times story actually tells us that Laura, 20 is a sophomore at Pomona (no mention of her hair color or dormitory name).

Maybe this tidbit should not be placed in a story about a Judge's family possibly being targetted by hate groups, yes?

Anyway, I am trying to get the attention of the NY Times (as if) and point out this possibly lethal gap in the personal securityof the judges family.

Now, it is possible that the TImes wittingly or unwittingly printed misinformaiton. But I am troubled.


Posted by: Tom Maguire on March 2, 2005 6:22 PM

And on a more general note, exactly how do these people, et. al. not fit the definition of terrorist?

Why, because they're white, of course! Everyone knows all terrorists are brown! [/snark]

I fail to appreciate the government's refusal to treat them as such and think Gitmo/Abu Ghraib would be only appropriate

Uh, no. Seriously, I have to disagree on that one. And I doubt you really mean that. Torture and indefinite, incommunicado detention without charge are not "appropriate" for anyone, no matter his/her misdeeds.

I'm OK with the death penalty in cases like this, though, although I oppose it in most cases.

Posted by: Mathwiz on March 3, 2005 4:53 PM

A little late on the reply but whatever. No, I really do mean it. If Bush can consider torture an appropropriate response to the "War on Terra [sic]", then by God, he should apply it equally. What's sauce for Padilla is sauce for Hale as well.

Personally? I find the fact we, as represented by our government can countenance Gitmo and the other Dachau's in waiting reprehensible. But then, for all my failings, I am a good American citizen.

Posted by: Charles M on March 4, 2005 1:11 AM

I would like to express my deep sorrow for the losses Judge Joan Lefkow has had to endure. We should be ashamed of our societal values permitting these things. Where is the integrity and the hand we should be extending to those in need? I say we should all stand and fight. Those fascist bastards want a war, we should give it to them. HOORAH!

Posted by: KD on March 4, 2005 9:26 AM

joan my heart goes out to you in the lost of your husband and mother. who ever did this needs to be done the same way.the person that did this was a sicko. and the one that did it really had the devil in them. well i will always think of this
god bless you

vickie l holmes
campbellsville kentucky

Posted by: vickie holmes on March 5, 2005 2:04 PM

I was deeply saddened by the senseless death of Michael Lefkow.

My dealings with Atty. Lefkow was outstanding. In 1972, my then husband and I were removed from the welfare roles for the same reason that we had been instated. My husband was unable for full time work, as he was a student at Chicago's Roosevelt University. Our situation was a landmark case for then legal ade attorney Lefkow. My husband became the first student to be granted public assistance for himself and his family.

As it turned out, this being a landmark case for Michael Lefkow, it became his first break. Soon after the case had been settled in our favor, Lefkow, moved from Chicago to somewhere in California, and that was the last time we saw him until the sad news that his life had been snuffed out by that disgruntaled man.

I want to let Judge Lefkow know that I feel the loss and extreme outrage of her situation, and pray that very strict security be granted to all judges in every arm of the judicial system.

Thanks for listening.

Paula Fischer

Posted by: Paula Fischer on August 6, 2005 2:18 AM