After witnessing the murder of her only child by an enraged former litigant in July 2020, U.S. District Judge Esther Salas set out on a mission to ensure her son’s death was not in vain.
On Monday, Congress passed legislation named after Salas’ son, Daniel Anderl. The law aims to protect federal judges by safeguarding their personally identifiable information as well as that of their close relatives.
“By passing this critical legislation, Congress has taken a solid step in preserving our democracy by protecting federal judges and their families,” Salas said in a statement Monday, adding that the law “will undoubtedly make it more difficult for violent individuals to find judges’ addresses and other personal information online.”
Salas and her husband, Mark Anderl, were celebrating the 20th birthday of their son, Daniel, in July 2020, when a man posing as a delivery driver came to their New Jersey home, rang the doorbell, and fatally shot Daniel. The man also shot Salas’ husband three times. Salas was in the basement during the attack and was unharmed.
Authorities said the man targeted Salas, New Jersey’s first Hispanic U.S. District judge, after finding her address and personal information online. The man, an anti-feminist activist and lawyer, had spewed hate against Salas online and in a misogynistic book he wrote years after she presided over a civil case in which he represented her.
Salas and her husband were moved by the tragedy to contact their three Democratic federal representatives in New Jersey: Sens. Bob Menendez and Cory Booker, as well as Rep. Mikie Sherrill.
“They stated their desires. “They wanted this bill to be his legacy,” Menendez said at a press conference on Monday.
Sherrill led the House effort to pass the legislation, while Booker and Menendez focused their efforts in the Senate.
“We must not forget that Judge Salas was not only targeted for being a judge. “She was targeted because she was a woman on the bench, and specifically because she was one of only two Latina judges in the District Court of New Jersey,” Menendez added. “Judge Salas and her family were the victims of a heinous hate crime.”
The Daniel Anderl Judicial Security and Privacy Act was eventually passed by Congress as part of the annual defence authorization bill on Thursday.
Salas praised the legislation’s bipartisan support following Menendez’s remarks on Monday.
“I saw them put their differences aside because it was the right thing to do,” Salas said.
The Daniel Anderl Judicial Security and Privacy Act expressly prohibits the online sale, trading, transferring, or purchasing of judges’ personal information. It allows federal judges to request that their information be removed if it is publicly available, and it authorises the US Marshals Service to hire additional analysts, security specialists, and other personnel to help prevent threats to federal judges.
President Joe Biden is expected to sign the bill into law soon.