WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) pledged to continue fighting to protect federal judges and their families from violence after his call for unanimous consent of bipartisan legislation crafted in response to the fatal, targeted attack on U.S. District Judge Esther Salas’s New Jersey home was blocked on the floor of the United States Senate. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) objected, insisting that the same privacy protections for appointed judges under the bill be afforded to elected Members of Congress.
The Daniel Anderl Judicial Security and Privacy Act of 2020—named for Salas’s son who was murdered during the violent home invasion—will safeguard the personally identifiable information of federal judges and their immediate families that could leave them vulnerable to potential threats. Sen. Menendez was joined in the unanimous consent request by his New Jersey colleague and bill cosponsor, Sen. Cory Booker.
“I promised Judge Salas that her son’s death would not be in vain, and we may not have achieved it tonight with Senator Booker, but we will make this happen, hopefully sooner rather than later, but we are going to make this happen,” said Sen. Menendez, who recommended Judge Salas to President Barack Obama for appointment to the federal bench. “America’s federal judges must be able to render rulings without fearing for their lives or the lives of their loved ones. We must better protect federal judges’ personal information from those who would seek to do them harm. That’s exactly what the Daniel Anderl Judicial Security and Privacy Act of 2020 will do.”
In July, a man, posing as a FedEx delivery driver, appeared at Judge Salas’s home and opened fire, critically wounding her husband, Mark Anderl, and killing their 20-year-old son, Daniel. The gunman, identified by authorities as a “men’s rights” attorney, had previously argued a case before Judge Salas and used publicly available information to create a dossier of the judge. Judge Salas later made a personal, public plea for greater privacy protections for federal judges.
After the attack on the Anderl-Salas family, Sens. Menendez and Booker pledged to draft legislation to better protect federal judges and their families. They unveiled it in September, standing outside Newark Federal Court where Judge Salas sits, and worked with the judiciary to address its concerns and incorporate many of its guiding principles into the final bill.
“This legislation is about standing up for the independence of our federal judiciary and the safety of all those who serve it,” said Sen. Menendez said in requesting unanimous consent. “This is a commonsense bill, it will save lives and I urge my colleagues to approve it without delay.”
The Daniel Anderl Judicial Security and Privacy Act of 2020 would shield the personally identifiable information of federal judges and their immediate family who share their residence, including home addresses, social security numbers, contact information, home or other address displayed on property tax records, vehicle information, photos of their vehicle and home, and the name of the schools and employers of their immediate family members.
The legislation establishes guidelines for federal agencies and commercial data collectors to create safeguards to protect the personal information of active, senior, recalled or retired federal judges and their immediate family. It would also authorize the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts (AO) to monitor and assess online threats, analyze complaints and address acts of aggression and violations, and authorize funding for the United States Marshals Service (USMS) to expand their current capabilities.
The Senator’s remarks as prepared for delivery:
M. President, I come to the floor today to request unanimous consent for the passage of the Daniel Anderl Judicial Security and Privacy Act of 2020.
This legislation is about standing up for the independence of our federal judiciary and the safety of all those who serve it.
Many of you already know of the terrible tragedy that recently struck Federal District Judge Esther Salas and her family.
This summer, an unhinged and violent individual showed up at Judge Salas’ home, impersonating a package delivery driver.
When her 20-year-old son Daniel Anderl answered the door, the assailant opened fire, taking the life of her only child and seriously wounding her husband, Mark Anderl.
Unfortunately, this tragedy is not the first attack on a federal judge.
There was the 1979 murder of Judge John Wood in San Antonio, Texas.
The 1988 murder of Judge Richard Daronco in Pelham, New York.
The 1989 murder of Judge Robert Vance in Mountain Brook, Alabama.
The 2005 murder of the husband and mother of Judge Joan Lefkow in Illinois.
And there have been other attacks as well. In June 2013, Chief Judge Timothy Corrigan was targeted by a gunman who purchased the address of his Florida home on the internet for a mere $1.95. The gunshot missed his ear by less than two inches.
And just 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.
According to the U.S. Marshals Service, threats against federal judges rose by 500 percent between Fiscal Years 2015 and 2019.
This trend should worry all those who care about our Constitution. An independent judiciary in which judges can render decisions without fear of retribution and violence is essential to the integrity of our democracy.
Indeed, the idea that any judge at any level of government could be intimidated undermines the very concept of the rule of law.
We expect all Americans to have respect for the rule of law, even when they disagree with the outcome of a case or a particular ruling.
Unfortunately, that is not always the case.
Some individuals delude themselves into believing that violence is the answer.
Well, we may not be able to eliminate hatred from someone’s heart… But what we can do is make sure the men and women who serve on our federal bench do not make for such easy targets.
That’s why after Daniel’s murder, I made a personal commitment to Judge Salas:
I told her I would develop legislation to better protect the men and women who sit on our federal judiciary, to ensure their independence in the face of increased personal threats on judges, and help prevent this unthinkable tragedy from ever happening again to anyone else.
The Daniel Anderl Judicial Security and Privacy Act of 2020 is a bipartisan, bicameral and commonsense plan to safeguard the personal information of federal judges and their families. And I want to thank Senators Booker and Graham for leading this effort with me.
Our legislation makes it unlawful for data brokers to knowingly sell, trade, license, purchase, or otherwise provide personally identifiable information of a federal judge or their family.
Since its introduction, we have worked with several stakeholders, including the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, U.S. Marshalls Office, the American Civil Liberties Union, among others. Together, we carefully updated legislative language in order to uphold the First Amendment right of the press to report on matters of public concern, and balance that right with our urgent need to better protect the safety of federal judges and their families.
Federal judges and their families will continue to be able to seek relief through the courts for the knowing and willful publication of their personal information, and the party responsible for the violation will have to pay the costs and reasonable attorney’s fees.
This bill enjoys widespread support among judicial and attorney organizations, including the National Association of Attorneys General, National Judicial Conference, the Federal Judges Association, the National Conference of Bankruptcy Judges, the American Bar Association, the National Hispanic Bar Association, the National Bar Association and several others.
M. President, America’s federal judges must be able to render rulings without fearing for their lives or the lives of their loved ones.
We must better protect federal judges’ personal information from those who would seek to do them harm.
That’s exactly what the Daniel Anderl Judicial Security and Privacy Act of 2020 will do.
This legislation will not bring Judge Salas’ son back. But we must ensure, as Judge Salas said, that his death not be in vain.
As she recently wrote in the New York Times, “Daniel’s death is speaking to us, but will we listen? For the sake of my brothers and sisters on the bench, Congress must act now. Every day that goes by without action leaves our federal judges, our justice system and our very democracy in danger.”
M. President, we must protect the independence of our courts, the safety of our judges, and prevent this sort of tragedy from ever happening again.
This is a commonsense bill, it will save lives and I urge my colleagues to approve it without delay.