The New Jersey Senate and Assembly have recently passed a bill that would make it a crime to post the physical addresses or phone numbers of judges, prosecutors, and law enforcement officers.
Legislature Passes New Bill in Wake of Attack on Federal Judge’s Home
The bill passed without opposition in both chambers of the New Jersey legislature, motivated by the July 19 attack on U.S. District Judge Esther Salas’s home by a gunman who shot Salas’s husband and son, fatally wounding her son. Judge Salas was in the basement of her home at the time of the attack and was not injured. The shooter, who later committed suicide, was a self-proclaimed anti-feminist who had appeared in Judge Salas’s court, where Judge Salas postponed ruling on the individual’s case. Investigators later found the shooter had a list of other potential targets, including three female judges.
The bill has been named Daniel’s Law in honor of Judge Salas’s son. Judge Salas noted that federal judges’ addresses and other personal information was readily available on the internet and could be easily purchased from background check companies, which is how the gunman who attacked her home was able to uncover personal details about Judge Salas and her family.
State senators who voted on the measure noted that the attack on Judge Salas’s home also constituted an attack on the justice system and administration of the rule of law, with the U.S. Marshals Service reporting a spike in threats and other inappropriate communications directed to federal judges and court staff in recent years.
What the New Law Outlaws
The new law, if signed by New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, would prohibit individuals, businesses, and government agencies from posting the home addresses and unpublished phone numbers of active and retired judges, state/county/municipal prosecutors, law enforcement officers, and these public officials’ spouses and children. Violation of the law would be charged as a fourth-degree or third-degree crime, punishable by imprisonment and/or fines.
Why the New Law Is Important
With a similar federal law under consideration by Congress, the new law would make it a crime to publish personal information about officials in the justice system and law enforcement. Over the years, litigants and offenders in the criminal justice system who have been dissatisfied with the decisions or treatment they have received from judges, prosecutors, or law enforcement officers have taken to publishing personal information about these public officials or using such information to threaten these officials, either as a means of retribution or as an attempt to coerce those officials to rule or act in a certain way.
While a civil litigant or criminal defendant might obtain and publish personal information about a judge, prosecutor, or police officer in a fit of anger, the new law criminalizes such behavior in attempt to dissuade such conduct and to help protect the personal safety of public officials tasked with the administration of law so that they can continue to do so effectively and impartially.
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