Court Security

Congress passes bills to protect judges, remove statue of Dred Scott decision author

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ABA President Deborah Enix-Ross is applauding Congress for passing a bill intended to keep federal judges safe by banning disclosure of their personal information.

“Our American democracy rests on the rule of law. Judges must be free to make decisions based on the facts and the law, without fear of reprisal or physical harm,” said Enix-Ross in a Dec. 16 press release.

The Daniel Anderl Judicial Security and Privacy Act is one of two judiciary-related bills headed to President Joe Biden for his signature. The other one orders the removal of a statue of former Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger Taney, the author of the Dred Scott decision defending slavery, from the old Supreme Court chamber at the U.S. Capitol, NBC News reports.

Taney’s statue will be replaced with a statue of Justice Thurgood Marshall, the court’s first Black justice.

The Daniel Anderl Judicial Security and Privacy Act is named for the son of U.S. District Judge Esther Salas of the District of New Jersey, who also praised the bill’s passage in a Dec. 16 news release from the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.

Anderl was killed at Salas’ home by a lawyer who had criticized Salas for moving too slowly in his case. Salas’ husband, Mark Anderl, was shot and injured.

“I want to thank Congress for honoring my son Daniel’s memory and for helping protect my brothers and sisters on the bench,” said Salas in the press release. “This legislation will make it harder for violent individuals to find judges’ addresses and other personal information online. By better protecting judges, the bill also helps safeguard the judicial independence guaranteed by the Constitution.”

The bill bars acquisition and resale of judges’ personal information by data brokers, according to the press release and Reuters. It also generally allows judges to redact personal information on government websites and to prevent publication of their personal information by others.

Banned information includes home addresses, home and cellphone numbers, full birthdates, personal email addresses, bank account information, Social Security numbers, license plate numbers and private employment information. The ban applies to information about federal judges, their spouses, siblings and children. The ban doesn’t apply to news media reporting on matters of public concern.

According to CNN, the bill allows the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts to file lawsuits against internet sites or other entities that reject requests to remove personal judges’ personal information.

Fix the Court, a court transparency group, was among the critics of the bill. It signed a letter with other groups raising concerns that the bill will discourage nonprofits from publishing information about judicial conflicts of interest.

The Dec. 12 letter gave some examples. Keeping secret the employment of a spouse could mean that the public won’t know whether an employer has a case before a judge. And keeping secret home addresses could mean that the public wouldn’t know about the purchase of a judge’s home by a well-connected couple.

See also: “ABA House urges Congress to pass judicial security bill” “Federal judiciary supports legislation to prevent access to judges’ information” “ABA urges Congress to prioritize judicial security amid recent attacks on judge and court officer”

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