In the wake of the fatal shooting of a federal judge’s son in New Jersey, bi-partisan legislation seeks to restrict online access to judges’ personal information.
Twenty-year-old Daniel Anderl, the son of U.S. District Judge Esther Salas, was shot and killed inside the family’s home on July 19 by a gunman posing as a delivery driver. Salas' husband, Mark Anderl, was seriously wounded after being shot three times and is recovering. Salas was in another part of the house and wasn't injured.
The assailant, Roy Den Hollander, was a disgruntled lawyer who had posted anti-feminist screeds and who had a document with information about a dozen female judges around the country. He was involved in a gender bias case before Salas, in which he challenged the U.S. military’s male-only draft registration requirement.
Den Hollander killed himself in upstate New York shortly after shooting Anderl.
Democratic New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez, who recommended Salas for bench during the Obama administration, announced the Daniel Anderl Judicial Security and Privacy Act on Monday. He was joined by fellow Democratic New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, who serves on the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Democratic New Jersey Rep. Mikie Sherrill, who appeared in court before Salas during her years as a federal prosecutor.
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, chair of the judiciary committee, is co-sponsoring the bill, Menendez said.
The bill would make it illegal for online aggregators to sell or make public personal information about judges and their families, including home addresses, social security numbers and school and employment information. It also would give federal marshals more resources to assess and track threats against judges.
“We may not be able to eliminate hatred from someone’s heart, but what we can do is make sure that men and women who serve on the federal bench don’t make such easy targets,” Menendez said.
Salas, in a video posted on YouTube in August two weeks after the shooting, called it “unacceptable” that personal information is so easily accessible.
Menendez said he believed the legislation wouldn’t infringe on free speech rights.
“You can still write anything you want about a judge’s decision,” he said. “You can still say anything you want about their rulings, but you need not have their personal identifying information for you to preserve your First Amendment right to do so.”
The U.S. Marshals say that in the past four years, threats to federal judges have increased 40 percent.