Federal judges need protection right now
The Senate this week approved legislation to protect the families of Supreme Court Justices. The legislation, if passed by the House, would authorize the Supreme Court Marshal to protect the families of the Justices and not just the Justices themselves.
This step is necessary but not enough. Like all federal judges, the Justices’ home addresses and other personally identifiable information (“PII”) are available to the public on the internet, which makes us all vulnerable to attack and retribution.
But while the House should swiftly pass this legislation, I don’t believe it goes far enough. All federal judges remain vulnerable and at risk. Like the Justices, we rule on the most serious and sensitive issues.
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As federal judges we stand on the frontline protecting democracy and the rule of law. We live in daily danger of retribution. That information must be shielded, for all federal judges. The time has come for Congress to ensure our federal judiciary is protected.
I understand the importance of this issue through personal tragedy. Nearly two years ago, my only child, Daniel, was murdered at our New Jersey home by a disgruntled litigant.
FILE – News media is set up in front of the home of U.S. District Judge Esther Salas, Monday, July 20, 2020, in New Jersey. A gunman posing as a delivery person shot and killed Salas’ 20-year-old son and wounded her husband Sunday evening at their New Jersey home before fleeing, according to judiciary officials.
On July 19, 2020, Daniel and I were chatting in our basement. It was a Sunday, and Daniel was still bubbling with happiness after enjoying a weekend of celebrating his 20th birthday with friends.
Then the doorbell rang. Daniel ran upstairs and, after opening the door, was shot in the chest by a gunman posing as a delivery man. My husband, Mark, was shot three times and nearly died.
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This tragedy happened because the gunman, a lawyer, was angry about how I handled his case.
Easy access to my PII allowed him to act on that anger. The gunman had created a dossier on my life—he stalked my neighborhood, mapped my routes to work, and identified my friends and the church I attended—all by using my PII he found on the internet. Finding a judge’s PII is alarmingly easy.
Over the course of 21 months, I’ve urged Congress to pass legislation to protect a judge’s PII. Presently before Congress is the Daniel Anderl Judicial Security and Privacy Act, which was named after my son. The Act would prohibit the public disclosure of PII about federal judges and their immediate family.
In December, the Act passed the Senate Judiciary Committee, without opposition. A companion bill is pending in the House. Yet, despite its unopposed passage by the Senate Judiciary Committee, months have slipped away with no action by our nation’s leaders.
Left: Mark Anderl Middle: Judge Esther Salas Right: Daniel Anderl
We must not waste any more time. The time is now for this legislation to pass Congress and be signed by the president.
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I’m not alone. Five federal judges have been killed or experienced the deaths of family members—Judges Lefkow, Roll, Vance, Wood, and Doranco. The U.S. Marshals Service, which protects judges, reports that threats against judges are on the rise and are becoming more intense and serious. The urgency to protect judges is real. How many more judges must suffer personal tragedy before Congress acts?
The security of judges is not, and should never be, a partisan issue. The threat is not just to our personal safety. It is to our democracy, the rule of law, and a fair and impartial judiciary.
To uphold the law as we have sworn to do, judges must be free to make tough decisions without fearing for themselves and their families.
Our nation cannot allow the constitutional principles that form the fabric of our democracy to be attacked. Our nation cannot afford to sit idly by.
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To be sure, judges should not be immune from criticism. And although the public should be free to peacefully protest, the public debate belongs in the public square, not on the doorway of a judge’s personal residence. And while I took an oath of office, that oath does not require that my family be put in harm’s way.
Not a day goes by that I don’t miss Daniel. Daniel is the first thing I think about when I open my eyes in the morning and the last thing I think about when I them at night.
Mark and I had four miscarriages in our quest to grow our family; Daniel was a gift from God. Nothing we do will ever bring him back, but we will do everything in our power to remind the world of the perils that await us if something is not done to protect our nation’s judges.
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No judge should have to endure the nightmare and the lifetime of sorrow and pain that I now do.
The time is now for our leaders to protect all federal judges by enacting the Daniel Anderl Judicial Security and Privacy Act.