I’ve written many times about the polarization and discord in our political world, and how there are issues that transcend that division. One issue I wrote about almost two years ago to the day, judicial privacy, needs to be discussed and supported by all sides more than ever.
Just over two years ago, on July 19, 2020, Danny Anderl, son of U.S. District Court Judge Esther Salas, New Jersey’s first Latina federal judge, and Mark Anderl, was tragically murdered, and Mark was critically wounded, by a self-described anti-feminist in a hate crime intended to kill Judge Salas. In a self-published manifesto, the murderer detailed his hatred for Judge Salas and his racist beliefs that Latina judges had not earned their appointments and were simply products of affirmative action. Despicable.
Danny was a joy and the light of his parents’ life, their only child. He was a student at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., loved sports and aspired to follow his parents to law school. He spent his last weekend celebrating his 20th birthday at home with his family and college friends. But for the murderer’s easy access to Judge Salas’s home address, Danny would still be with us today.
This heartbreak made headlines across the nation, bringing threats to our judiciary and the shocking lack of judicial privacy protections to the forefront. Danny’s murder is sadly one in a series of fatal attacks and threats to the members of the judiciary and their families. In June, a retired Wisconsin judge was shot and killed in his home, and in the past few weeks, a federal judge in the Southern District of Florida was threatened and his personal address posted online, along with a call to “find out where his children go to school.” Chillingly, according to the U.S. Marshall Service, threats against federal judges have increased in recent years, from 926 in 2015, to 4,511 in 2021. This is not just a threat to the personal safety of federal judges and their families, but to our democracy, whose foundation rests on an independent judiciary.
Despite this, federal judges and their families remain at risk because Congress has yet to act on the bipartisan Daniel Anderl Judicial Security and Privacy Act, which seeks to better protect judicial personally identifiable information (“JPII”), especially over the internet. Our own Senators, Bob Menendez and Cory Booker, and Representatives Mikie Sherrill, Andy Kim, Donald Payne, Bonnie Watson Coleman, Josh Gottheimer, Albio Sires, Bill Pascrell, Tom Malinowski and Donald Norcross, are working tirelessly to pass this legislation before year end, and I applaud Governor Murphy and our state legislators for enacting similar legislation at the state level – “Daniel’s Law.”
Danny, Judge Salas, and Mark are more than just names for me. Craig Carpenito, our former United States Attorney and a dear friend of their family, enlisted me to help honor Danny’s memory and to draw attention to this important issue. I’ve since joined with other dear friends of Judge Salas and her family (Rahul Agarwal, Rachael Honig, Justin Quinn and Mary Toscano) to create the Daniel Anderl Judicial Protection Project.
These dedicated members of the New Jersey legal community are supported by Craig’s law firm, King & Spalding, whose generous financial and pro bono contributions established the Project and are helping to create a scholarship in Danny’s honor and lobby to enact this critical legislation by year end. I was copied on a King & Spalding email last night where Craig told the story of his relationship with Danny and asked his partners to once again step up – this time, with their wallets. The reaction was nothing short of remarkable. As of Friday, over 185 K&S partners replied with an outpouring of love and financial support that one K&S partner described as rivaling the show of support for Spartacus. I urge other law firms to step up and support this cause in the same way K&S has.
This is an issue that transcends politics, and any difference should be put aside for this critical issue. Despite their differences, Craig and Judge Salas have done that. When they met, Judge Salas was a public defender and Craig was an Assistant US Attorney (opposites sides of criminal cases). This is not usually a recipe for friendship, but Craig and Judge Salas always put those differences aside once they walked outside the courtroom, and they developed a cherished friendship.
That friendship was put on display the day Danny was killed. Because Craig was still the United States Attorney for NJ, he was one of the first to receive a call about the attack on Judge Salas’ home. That night, he sat in the hospital with Judge Salas and promised we would not let Danny die in vain or be forgotten. Together, they talked about this very charity and a golf outing to celebrate Danny’s life and support the critical cause of judicial protections. It brought them both some much needed peace to know that it would keep Danny’s name alive. Carrying out this promise by supporting the Daniel Anderl Judicial Protection Project is something we should all unite behind.