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Congress OK's Measure Protecting Judges' Personal Information

Congress approved legislation that would allow U.S. Supreme Court justices and federal judges to shield their personal information from being viewed online in response to a rising number of threats, reports Reuters. The Daniel Anderl Judicial Security and Privacy Act was named for the son of U.S. District Judge Esther Salas, who was shot and killed at her home in New Jersey by a disgruntled lawyer posing as a deliveryman in a 2020 attack that also injured the judge's husband. The case highlighted the growing number of threats targeting judges. The measure was attached to the annual must-pass defense policy bill, which has been passed by the House and now heads to President Biden for his signature. The judicial security measure, which the federal judiciary backed, had languished in Congress. It remained in the 4,000-plus page defense bill despite criticism from public interest groups who say it could chill free speech and undermine efforts to scrutinize judges' conflicts of interest.

The U.S. Marshals Service said judges were subject to 4,511 threats and inappropriate communications in 2021, up from 926 in 2015. The new measure would make it illegal for commercial data brokers to knowingly sell, license, or purchase addresses, phone numbers, Social Security numbers, and other personally identifiable information of judges or their immediate family. Government agencies could not publicly post judges' personal information, and the bill bars other businesses and people from posting their information online if a judge requests they not do so. Violators could face lawsuits by the judiciary and financial penalties. The bill contains exemptions, including for journalists using information for news. Sponsors of the bill, including Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), say it is narrowly tailored to protect judges. Critics, including the groups Demand Justice and Fix the Court, say the bill could unconstitutionally restrict discussion about judges' conflicts of interest and obscure sources of information about them and their families. They say its provisions even allow for demands to remove information concerning the employers of Supreme Court justices' spouses, hindering efforts to determine if a justice should be recused from a case.


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