“It’s not an overstatement to say that passage of the Daniel Anderl Judicial Security and Privacy Act of 2020 is urgently needed to protect the lives and safety of our judges,” said James C. Duff, Director of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. “It’s critical that this legislation is enacted during the current lame duck session of Congress. Judges’ lives are at stake.”
Daniel Anderl, the 20-year-old son of U.S. District Judge Esther Salas, was shot and killed in the doorway of the family’s home in July by a litigant who had appeared before the judge months earlier. Judge Salas’ husband, Mark, was seriously wounded and is recovering from his injuries.
The assailant obtained the family’s home address on the internet and posed as a courier.
The bipartisan bill, if passed, will protect judges’ personally identifiable information from resale by data brokers. The bill allows federal judges to obtain redaction of personal information displayed on federal government internet sites and will prevent publication of their personal information by other businesses and individuals in cases where there is no legitimate news media interest or matter of public concern. It encourages states to protect personal information, improves the ability of the U.S. Marshals Service to identify threats, and authorizes improvements to home and courthouse security technology.
“This legislation is important to the Judiciary and personal to me,” Salas said. “These issues are real. Lives have been lost and threatened because people can find judges’ addresses and phone numbers online and do harm to them and their families.”
“The Salas attack is not an isolated event,” Duff said.
Last week, a man armed with a pipe and a knife entered a judge’s chambers in California. The judge called the police and escaped unharmed. Last month, a judge’s address was circulated on social media, urging people to gather outside his home while the judge was hearing a high-profile case.
In a recent op-ed, Chief Judge Timothy Corrigan relayed how a gunshot, fired into his Florida home, missed his ear by less than two inches. The gunman purchased his address on the internet for $1.95.
U.S. Marshals Service data shows that threatening communications involving federal judges increased nearly 500 percent from 2015 to 2019.
In September, the Judicial Conference of the United States approved and transmitted to Congress a request for a comprehensive set of security measures to better protect judges at home and at courthouses, including preventing the unauthorized release of judges’ personally identifiable information, particularly on the internet.
“It’s crucial to our system of justice that judges can decide cases without fear for their safety and that of their family,” Duff said. “We implore Congress to act on these critical safety measures during its lame duck session. Every day that goes by means that these serious vulnerabilities continue to exist.”