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Congress Focuses on the Security of Judges in the Wake of Brutal Attack

Civil Rights Policy Brief # 170 | By: Rodney A. Maggay | August 15, 2021

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Policy Summary

On July 16, 2021 both of New Jersey’s Senators – Bob Menendez and Cory Booker – introduced The Daniel Anderl Judicial Security and Privacy Act of 2021 in the U.S. Senate. Four additional Senators co – sponsored the bill – Dick Durbin (D-IL), Diane Feinstein (D-CA), Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and John Kennedy (R-LA). A companion bill was simultaneously introduced in the House of Representatives by Representatives Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) and Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ).

The Anderl bill seeks to safeguard and protect members of the federal bench and their families and judiciary staff from violent acts and threats that arise in the course of their work. The bill is named after the son of New Jersey federal judge Esther Salas after a violent attack by a disgruntled lawyer at their home. On June 19, 2020 Roy Den Hollander arrived at their home dressed as a delivery person. He knocked and when the door was opened he shot and killed Judge Salas’ twenty year old son Daniel Anderl. He also shot her husband Mark who was wounded but would eventually survive the attack. Judge Salas was in the basement of her home and was not injured by the assailant. The assailant, who later died of a self – inflicted gunshot wound, had been able to target Judge Salas and her family by retrieving publicly available information on the internet to find her home address as well as pictures of her home and personal vehicles.

The Anderl bill would shield the personally identifiable information of judges and their families in online databases. It would also prohibit government agencies from posting identifiable info on their website and authorize a mechanism for a judge to request removal within seventy – two (72) hours if personally identifiable information is published. Additionally, the act authorizes funding for the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts (AO), the U.S. Marshals Service and DOJ so that those departments can monitor and track online threats, maintain records, investigate complaints and address acts of aggression. Grant funding is also authorized for state and local governments to cover costs for programs that prevent release of personally identifiable information for judiciary staff at the state and local level. LEARN MORE

Policy Analysis

The Anderl bill is a move to protect those who work in the federal judiciary and should be approved and signed into law as soon as possible.

The highlight of the bill is the way the bill is designed to shield personally identifiable information of judges that can be found online, such as social security numbers and addresses. This is key because the availability of that information online is one way the assailant of Judge Salas’ family was able to locate her home address. Information like that can be available for free on federal databases and on third party websites from data collectors at minimal cost.

One thing that this bill does is allow federal judges to perform their duties free from intimidation and harassment. Judges often have to make tough calls and decisions that will usually leave one party upset and frustrated at the outcome. The fact of the matter is that inappropriate communications and threats against judges have been increasing. According to the U.S. Marshals Service these inappropriate communications have skyrocketed from 926 incidents in 2015 to 4,261 in 2020.

Photo taken from: GovTrack.us

With such a steep rise in threatening communications against judges and court staff, shielding personally identifiable information is necessary for the judges to perform their work free from undue influence as well as for their personal safety. 

“Scrubbing” and removing personally identifiable information online is one way to protect judges and court personnel but it is also the ability to monitor persons and threats before they are acted on that can prevent these kinds of attacks. Hiring intelligence analysts and more marshals and being able to monitor persons of interest can go a long way in preventing these incidents. 

Overall, the Anderl bill is an important and an overdue law and due to the wide bi – partisan support it has it should be quickly passed and signed into law. LEARN MORE

Engagement Resources​

Click or tap on image to visit resource website.

United States Courts – official website of U.S. Courts discussing need to protect judiciary personnel.

American Bar Association (ABA) – association’s infopage on judicial security resources.

This brief was compiled by Rod Maggay. If you have comments or want to add the name of your organization to this brief, please contact Rod@USResistnews.org.

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