Sens. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-N.J.) on Monday unveiled legislation to safeguard the personal information of federal judges and their families that leave them vulnerable to job-related threats.
The bill, The Daniel Anderl Judicial Security and Privacy Act of 2020, was written in response to the fatal attack on U.S. District Court Judge Esther Salas’s New Jersey home in July of this year.
In the recent attack, Salas’s son, Daniel, was fatally shot and her husband, criminal defense attorney Marc Anderl, was critically wounded when authorities say a man named Den Hollander posed as a Fed Ex driver to gain entry into their home.
On Sept. 28, the New Jersey lawmakers held a press conference in front of the Newark Federal Court to detail their bipartisan, bicameral legislation and answer questions.
“I made a personal commitment to Judge Salas that I would put forth legislation to better protect the men and women who sit on our federal judiciary, to ensure their independence in the face of increased personal threats on judges, and help prevent this unthinkable tragedy from ever happening again to anyone else,” said Menendez.
Menendez was the one who recommended Salas to President Barack Obama for appointment to the federal bench. “This is a commonsense bipartisan bill; it will save lives and I would urge my colleagues to pass it without delay.”
The bill would shield the personal information of federal judges and their family who share their residence, including home addresses, social security numbers, contact information, tax records, marital and birth records, vehicle information, photos of their vehicle and home, and the name of the schools and employers.
Hollander, the suspect in the attack, was a self-described anti-feminist who had openly criticized Salas. After the attack, Hollander was found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He was able to easily access Salas’s information because currently, federal judges do not have any extra protections allotted to them or their families, Salas said in a video statement in August.
“The monster knew where I lived and what church we attended and had a complete dossier on me and my family,” the judge said in the video.
“My son’s death cannot be in vain, which is why I am begging those empowered to do something to help my brothers and sisters on the bench,” Salas said. “Now more than ever, we need to identify a solution that keeps the lives of federal judges private.”
The Menendez-initiated bill creates a framework for federal agencies, state and local governments, and commercial data collectors to put safeguards in place to protect the personal information of federal judges, past and present, making it illegal for government agencies to post any personal information and requiring them to take down any information that is posted within 72 hours.
“No person who takes on the responsibility of serving as a federal judge should ever have to live in fear that they or their family could be targeted by someone who is able to easily access their personal information,” said Booker.
Sherrill, who also worked in the federal courts before being elected to Congress, said she was horrified at the murder of Salas’s son.
“And we hope that the action we are taking today will prevent this from happening again. Providing the United States Marshals Service, the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts and state and local governments with these tools will help law enforcement do its job and keep our federal judges safe,” said Rep. Sherrill.
Sherrill was referring to the bill’s provision that would authorize funding for the United States Marshals Service to monitor and assess online threats, maintain records, investigate complaints, and address acts of aggression and violations.
This bill also creates a federal grant program to cover the costs for such actions and authorizes funds to expand programs to redact information from government databases, like taxes, property records, and vehicles.
In addition, the bill prohibits commercial data collectors to sell, trade, license, purchase, or provide judges’ personally identifiable information and allows “injunctive relief and a private right-of-action for violations of the law.”
The Daniel Anderl Judicial Security and Privacy Act of 2020 is co-sponsored by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.