Three members of New Jersey’s congressional delegation on Monday introduced a bill that would impose strict limits on the availability of personal information of federal judges and their immediate family.
The bill comes in response to the attempted assassination of U.S. District Court Judge Esther Salas. In July, a gunman disguised as a Federal Express delivery driver fatally shot the judge’s 20-year-old son Daniel Anderl.
Salas’s husband, criminal defense attorney Mark Anderl, 63, was critically wounded in the attack but has recovered to the point that he can walk on his own, U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-North Bergen) said.
“This legislation will not bring Daniel back, but we must ensure, as Judge Salas said, that his death — that his death need not be in vain,” the senator said, pausing occasionally as his emotions overcame him. “We have to protect the independence of our courts, the safety of our judges and prevent this sort of tragedy from ever happening again. It is a common-sense bill. It will save lives, and I would urge my colleagues to pass it without delay.”
The bill, sponsored by Menendez, U.S. Sen Cory Booker (D-Newark), Rep. Mikie Sherrill and U.S. Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), would bar public postings containing judges’ personal information and would allow judges to request already-posted information be pulled within 72 hours.
It further blocks commercial data collectors from selling, trading or otherwise providing or obtaining judges’ personal information and clears funding for state and local governments to administer programs shielding the personal information of the judiciary’s members.
“No person who takes on the responsibility, the awesome responsibility, of serving as a federal judge, to serve the public to serve their nation — should ever have to live in fear that they or their family could be targeted by someone wishing to do them harm who is able to easily access their personal information,” Booker said.
Though the bill does not provide for protective details for federal judges, it does authorize additional funding for the Administrative Office of the Courts and the U.S. Marshals Service to monitor and address threats to judges and hire additional personnel to deter threats targeting judges.
The data suggests there’s a need for as much. Threats against individuals under U.S. Marshals’ protection have increased 40% in the last three years, Sherrill said, and the agency expects those threats to grow more complex as time wears on.
“It is a demanding and often very intense job. They should be confident in not only their own safety and security but the safety and security of their families,” the congresswoman said. “We were horrified hearing the news of the murder of Judge Salas’s son Daniel and the shooting of her husband Mark. No family should ever have to experience that. We hope the action that we are taking here today will prevent this from ever happening again.”