Judicial Security Legislation Stalls, Awaits Congressional Action in 2021
On Wednesday afternoon, the United States Senate considered but failed to act on the Daniel Anderl Judicial Security and Privacy Act of 2020, legislation that would enhance the security protections for federal judges nationwide.
“It is disappointing that this critical legislation, which enjoys bipartisan support in both the House and the Senate, did not obtain the unanimous consent required to pass the Senate in this busy lame duck period,” said James C. Duff, Director of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. “Nevertheless, we are extremely grateful to those who have supported this bill and fully expect it to be taken up at the start of the next session of Congress. The nation’s judges depend on it.”
The legislation is named after the 20-year old son of New Jersey District Judge Esther Salas. Daniel 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. The assailant obtained the family’s home address on the internet and posed as a courier.
“This bill was introduced three months ago and made enormous progress in a very short time,” Duff said. “We are certainly encouraged by this and are particularly grateful to Senators Booker, Menendez, Graham, and Feinstein, who co-sponsored the legislation, and to the many members of Congress who support the bill.”
The bill would protect judges’ personally identifiable information from resale by data brokers. It would allow federal judges to obtain redaction of personal information displayed on federal government internet sites and 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. The legislation would also review efforts by states to protect personal information, improve the ability of the U.S. Marshals Service to identify threats, and authorize improvements to home and courthouse security technology.
The danger to judges is getting worse. Security incidents targeting judges and others who play essential roles in federal court cases rose to 4,449 threats and inappropriate communications in 2019, up from 926 such incidents in 2015, according to the U.S. Marshals Service. Since 1979, four federal judges have been murdered. In two cases, including the attack on Judge Salas’s family, relatives of federal judges have been murdered at home by an angry litigant.
“We will redouble our efforts to get this legislation enacted in the new Congress,” Duff said. “Regrettably, every day we fail to act leaves our federal judges and our democracy in danger.”