Judicial security measure catches ride on defense policy bill
Language would allow current and former federal judges to wipe their personal information from websites
Federal judges could soon demand their personal information be scrubbed from the internet, after negotiators included the provision in a must-pass defense policy bill released Tuesday.
Backers of the judicial privacy measure — named for Daniel Anderl, who was killed in an attack at the New Jersey home of his mother, federal Judge Esther Salas — praised its addition to the final, bicameral fiscal 2023 National Defense Authorization Act.
Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., called the bill “a huge step forward for judicial security” in a statement Wednesday.
“I made a promise to Judge Salas after her son's murder that we would do something to prevent this from ever happening to a federal judge again and we're now on the verge of achieving that,” Menendez said.
The language included in the defense bill would allow current and former federal judges to request that public-facing websites remove identifying information about them such as addresses.
The House was expected to take up the NDAA on Wednesday and the Senate to soon follow suit, perhaps next week.
Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., a member of the committee and one of the bill’s sponsors, praised its inclusion in the defense bill.
“No judge in America should have to fear for their life and the safety of their family as they work to deliver equal justice under the law,” Booker said Wednesday.
Anderl was killed in a 2020 attack at his mother’s home and spurred a two-year campaign to increase judicial security amid rising threats to members of the judiciary. Last year the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 21-0 to send the bill to the Senate floor.
The bill ran into opposition from Sen. Rand Paul, R-K.Y., who sought to add an amendment to the measure allowing lawmakers to remove personally identifiable information as well.
Following several months of objections from Paul, the Senate voted to include the judicial privacy bill as part of its version of the fiscal 2023 NDAA.
The measure has the backing of the Judicial Conference of the United States, which oversees federal courts and has called for its passage as part of broader efforts to secure courts.
Earlier this year, the leak of a Supreme Court draft opinion that showed conservative justices would overturn the constitutional right to an abortion pushed judicial security concerns to front page news.
Protestors targeted justices’ homes and later prosecutors charged one man with attempted murder after they said he was arrested with a gun and a plan to kill Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh.
Those protests prompted Congress to pass a bill to expand Supreme Court police protection for justices’ families. However, the bill had some opposition in the House from members of the New Jersey congressional delegation.
In a statement following the vote in June, Democratic Rep. Tom Malinowski and five other members of the state delegation said they opposed the Supreme Court security bill because it did not include the privacy measure for lower-court judges.