A New Jersey law intended to keep judges, prosecutors and law enforcement officers safe by allowing them to prevent the public from knowing where they live is being used to limit legitimate news reporting about a public official's residency, the editor of New Jersey Monitor wrote in a commentary. The law — called Daniel's Law, named for the slain son of a federal judge — lies at the heart of a recent dispute between the editor of New Brunswick Today and that city's police director, Tony Caputo, who has threatened journalist Charlie Kratovil with criminal charges for reporting that Caputo lives in Cape May. Gov. Phil Murphy signed Daniel’s Law in 2020, making it a crime to post the addresses or phone numbers of judges, prosecutors, law enforcement, and their families. The bill signing came just four months after a disgruntled attorney who had appeared before U.S. District Judge Esther Salas went to her North Brunswick home and shot and killed her son, Daniel Anderl, 20, and wounded her husband, Mark Anderl. Salas was home at the time but not injured.
Media law expert Jennifer Borg called the law well-intentioned but overly broad in criminalizing the reporting of truthful information about matters of public concern in violation of both the First Amendment and the state constitution. Allowing reporters access to officials’ home addresses can result in important scrutiny of public employees’ conduct, she noted. “Making home addresses public has helped reporters uncover that Mark Meadows, Trump’s former chief of staff, was simultaneously registered to vote in three different states, that Justice Thomas sold property to Texas billionaire Harlan Crow and failed to disclose the transaction, and that George Santos lied about having a real estate portfolio. These stories show that allowing reporters access to home addresses can result in important scrutiny of public employees’ conduct,” Borg said. Kratovil obtained Caputo’s Cape May address from a public record and had been reporting the street name — not the full address — at public meetings in New Brunswick to see if any city officials wanted to comment on why their police director lives 140 miles away. The ACLU of New Jersey is suing New Brunswick and Caputo on behalf of Kratovil, saying that Daniel’s Law is unconstitutional as applied to journalists who obtain officials’ addresses through public access or reporting.