Long awaited legislation to enhance the security of our federal judiciary and safeguard the personally identifiable information of federal judges and their immediate families was introduced in the Senate and the House earlier this month. The Daniel Anderl Judicial Security and Privacy Act of 2021 builds on legislation that was first introduced last year in response to a vicious attack on the family of New Jersey US District Court Judge Esther Salas. An assailant, posing as a Federal Express delivery driver, went to her home and killed her son and wounded her husband. The gunman, who had previously argued a case before Judge Salas, used publicly accessible information to track her down.
The bipartisan legislation was introduced in the Senate by New Jersey Senators Bob Menendez and Cory Booker and co-sponsored by Senate Judiciary Committee members Richard Durbin, chair (D-IL), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and John Kennedy (R-LA). Representatives Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) are sponsors of the companion bill in the House.
Enhancing the security of our federal judges is of paramount importance to the profession. During ABA Day 2021, our virtual association-wide grassroots lobbying event this past April, participants advocated for reintroduction of the legislation.
Applauding the leadership of the sponsors of the legislation, ABA President Patricia Lee Refo said, “The American Bar Association vigorously supports the Daniel Anderl Judicial Security and Privacy Act of 2021, judicial security legislation introduced today. It is urgently needed to preserve the ability of our federal judges to decide matters that come before them without fear of reprisal or physical harm to themselves or their families. Congress needs to take action now to protect our federal judges by passing this legislation.”
Written in consultation with the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts (AO), the U.S. Marshals Service (USMS), and the Department of Justice, the legislation covers all Article III and IV (territorial) judges, bankruptcy and magistrate judges, and judges of the U.S. Court of Claims. The legislation would:
- Prohibit government agencies from publicly posting judges’ personally identifiable information, including home addresses, social security numbers, contact information, vehicle registration information, and the name of the schools and employers of their immediate family members, and allow judges to request the removal of their information within 72 hours if it is already posted;
- Authorize funding and establish a grant program for state and local governments to create or expand programs to protect judges’ personally identifiable information, such as programs to redact information from tax, property, and state motor vehicle records, among others, or the hiring of a third party to scrub the information from the internet;
- Prohibit commercial data collectors to sell, trade, license, purchase or provide judges’ personally identifiable information; also prohibit other persons, businesses, or associations from publicly posting personally identifiable information of a judge or family member if asked not to disclose it;
- Allow injunctive relief for violations of the law;
- Authorize the AO to monitor and assess online threats, maintain records, investigate complaints, and address acts of aggression and violations and;
- Allow the USMS to hire additional intelligence analysts, deputy U.S. Marshals, physical security specialists, and other personnel to ensure the agency is able to anticipate and deter threats to federal judges.
Judge Roslynn R. Mauskopf, director of the AO, described the legislation as “narrowly tailored to address a compelling government interest,” noting that “[i]t does not limit public access to judges’ decisions or opinions but seeks only to protect personal information that can be used to target judges and their families where they are most vulnerable.”