NEW JERSEY – Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal Monday led a national, bipartisan coalition of 51 Attorneys General in sending a letter to Congress urging passage of legislation aimed at protecting the safety of federal judges and their families.
The letter supports passage of the Daniel Anderl Judicial Security and Privacy Act or similar legislation. Because of the large number of Attorneys General signing the letter, the legislation is receiving the formal endorsement of the National Association of Attorneys General.
The Daniel Anderl Judicial Security Act is named for 20-year-old Daniel Anderl, the late son of Judge Esther Salas of the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey. Daniel was murdered on July 19, 2020, when an attorney who had appeared in a case before Judge Salas – a man described in today’s letter as “deranged” – appeared at her home and shot both Daniel and Judge Salas’ husband. The judge’s husband was critically wounded but survived the attack.
Co-led by Attorney General Grewal and Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, today’s letter calls passage of legislation to protect federal judges and their families an “urgent” matter in light of Daniel’s tragic death, as well as increasing attacks and threats against members of the federal judiciary. The bipartisan bill would protect the confidentiality of personal identifying information of members of the federal judiciary in public records, and limit the distribution of that information online and by data brokers. In November, Governor Phil Murphy signed into law a similar bill that protects the personal information of judges, prosecutors, and law enforcement officers.
“In this day and age, public officials are receiving more threats than ever before,” said Governor Phil Murphy. “Unfortunately, as we saw earlier this year, these threats can turn into real-life tragedies. Judges must be able to do their jobs while knowing that they and their loved ones are safe. What happened to Judge Salas and her family must never happen again in our country. I am proud to support Attorney General Grewal’s coalition to pass a federal version of Daniel’s Law.”
“Now more than ever, we need to protect public servants from threats and violence targeted at them simply for doing their jobs,” Grewal said. “Nobody should suffer that kind of abuse, let alone the kind of pain inflicted on Judge Salas and her family. I hope that the federal government will join New Jersey in taking action to ensure that members of the judiciary can perform their constitutional duties without fear.”
The congressional sponsors of the legislation backed by the National Association of Attorneys General represent New Jersey — U.S. Senator Bob Menendez and U.S. Representative Mikie Sherrill. Also representing New Jersey, the legislation co-sponsors include U.S. Senator Cory Booker and U.S. Representative Andy Kim.
“In light of increasing threats against public servants, we cannot delay the passage of this important legislation,” said Representative Sherrill. “No family should experience the pain that Judge Salas and her husband have endured. Our bipartisan legislation led by Senator Menendez provides the United States Marshals Service, the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, and state and local governments with tools to help members of law enforcement do their job and keep our federal judges safe.”
“With hate crimes and acts of violence increasing both in New Jersey and across our country, I’m committed to doing everything I can to protect our communities from these threats,” said New Jersey Representative Josh Gottheimer. “That includes protecting the private contact information and home addresses of our judiciary, prosecutors, and members of law enforcement from those who wish to do them harm.”
“If we ask judges to accept risks to their security, we owe them every possible effort to protect their privacy,” said New Jersey Representative Tom Malinowski. “The Daniel Anderl Judicial Security Act will help ensure that no family ever has to experience the pain that Judge Esther Salas and her husband Mark have.”
Monday’s letter to Congress recalls that four federal judges have been murdered since 1979, including District Judge John Wood, District Judge Richard Daronco, Circuit Judge Robert Vance and District Judge John Roll. In addition, two family members of District Judge Joan Lefkow were killed in a targeted attack on her home in 2005.
The letter notes that incidents, inappropriate communications and threats against federal judges and others protected by the U.S. Marshals Service have been steadily climbing in recent years, as evidenced by a spike in such incidents from 2,357 in 2016 to 4,449 in 2019.
“Increasingly, public servants are being threatened with physical violence and death simply for carrying out their duties in accordance with the Oath they swore to uphold the Constitution,” the letter states.
Introduced in the Senate on September 24, 2020, and in the House on October 13, 2020, the Daniel Anderl Judicial Security and Privacy Act would, among other initiatives:
- Protect judges and their families by requiring federal agencies to maintain the confidentiality of judges’ personally identifiable information upon request;
- Authorize funding for state and local governments to adopt similar measures;
- Prohibit data brokers from selling, licensing, trading, purchasing, or otherwise providing or making available for consideration judges’ personally identifiable information;
- Create an enforceable mechanism for judges and their immediate family members to secure removal of their personally identifiable information from the Internet.
In light of the escalating danger to federal judges and their families everywhere, today’s letter expresses full support for the proposed legislation named in Daniel Anderl’s memory, and notes that the Judicial Conference of the United States and the American Bar Association, among others, support such legislation.
The letter concludes by noting that, while New Jersey and other states have enacted similar judicial protection laws on a state level, only federal legislation can “protect federal judges and their families wherever they reside and ensure uniform enforcement nationwide.”