Legislators Reintroduce Bipartisan Judicial Privacy and Security Act in Senate, House

July 20, 2021

Bipartisan legislation reintroduced in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives would bolster efforts to protect the federal judiciary and safeguard the personally identifiable information of federal judges and their immediate families. 

The Daniel Anderl Judicial Security and Privacy Act of 2021, built on legislation first introduced last year, is crafted in response to the fatal, targeted attack on U.S. District Court Judge Esther Salas’s New Jersey home and is being introduced at a time when threats against the judiciary are on the rise.

The bill shields the personally identifiable information of federal judges and their immediate family, including home addresses, social security numbers, contact information, vehicle registration information, and the name of the schools and employers of their immediate family members. The bill includes all the requested changes from ALTA’s Redaction Workgroup.

The Uniform Law Commission has formed a committee to study the need for and feasibility of a uniform or model law concerning the redaction of personal information, particularly with respect to judges and other public officials, from real property records and other official public records in order to address safety concerns. ALTA sent a letter supporting this step and offered to help during the process.

ALTA believes the best way to shield sensitive information is to limit who has access to the protected data, without removing or altering vital public records.

ALTA and the Property Records Industry (PRIA) have combined efforts to publish several documents to aid members facing redaction legislation statutes in their states.

The bill was named for Salas’s son who was murdered during the violent home invasion—is cosponsored by Sens. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.), Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), John Kennedy (R-La.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.). Bipartisan companion legislation in the House of Representatives is cosponsored by Reps. Sherrill and Brian Fitzpatrick.

“The threats against our federal judiciary are real and they are on the rise. We must give the U.S. Marshals and other agencies charged with guarding our courts the resources and tools they need to protect our judges and their families,” said Sen. Menendez, who recommended Judge Salas to President Barack Obama for appointment to the federal bench. “I made a personal commitment to Judge Salas  that I would put forth legislation to better protect the men and women who sit on our federal judiciary, to ensure their independence in the face of increased personal threats on judges, and help prevent this unthinkable tragedy from ever happening again to anyone else. The Daniel Anderl Judicial Security and Privacy Act of 2021 is a commonsense, bipartisan bill that will save lives, and I would urge my colleagues in Congress to pass it without delay.”

A promising aspect of this federal legislation is funding for states to use during implementation," said Elizabeth Blosser, ALTA’s senior director of government affairs. "Critical funding will go a long way to ensuring uniformity in how redaction laws are applied, which is good for the title industry and protected parties."

A report issued by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Inspector General (IG) concluded that “the USMS (U.S. Marshals Service) does not have the resources or proactive threat detection capabilities that the USMS has determined it needs to meet its protective services obligations for USMS-protected persons, including judges.”  “Security incidents” against federal judges rose 89% between 2016 and 2019, according to the audit.

In July 2020, a man, posing as a FedEx delivery driver, went to the home of Judge Salas and opened fire, critically wounding her husband, Mark Anderl, and killing their 20-year-old son, Daniel.  The gunman, identified by authorities as a “men’s rights” attorney, had previously argued a case before Judge Salas and used publicly available information to target the judge. Judge Salas later made a personal, public plea for greater privacy protections for federal judges.

After the attack on the Anderl-Salas family, Sens. Menendez and Booker pledged to draft legislation to better protect federal judges and their families, and worked with the judiciary to address its concerns and incorporate many of its guiding principles into the final bill.  

The legislation establishes guidelines for federal agencies, state and local governments and commercial data collectors to create safeguards to protect the personal information of active, senior, recalled or retired federal judges and their immediate family by:

  • Prohibiting government agencies from publicly posting of judges’ personally identifiable information and allows judges to request the removal of their information within 72 hours if it is already posted;
  • Creating a federal grant program for state and local governments to help cover costs to prevent the release of judges’ personally identifiable information from any agency that operates a database or registry that contains this information;
  • Authorizing funding for state and local governments to create or expand programs to protect judges’ personally identifiable information, such as programs to redact information from tax, property and state motor vehicle records, among others, or the hiring of a third party to scrub the information from the internet;
  • Prohibiting data brokers from knowingly selling, trading, licensing, purchasing or otherwise providing judges’ personally identifiable information and authorizes the AO to provide data brokers with a current list of federal judges and their immediate family members for the purpose of compliance and;
  • Allowing injunctive or declaratory relief for knowing and willful violations of the law.   

Here are modifications made to the bill at the request of ALTA:

Section 4. Data Broker Definition Exclusions

(iii) Utilizing personal information internally, providing access to businesses under common ownership or affiliated by corporate control, or selling or providing data for a transaction or service requested by or concerning the individual whose personal information is being transferred.

(vi) A financial institution to the extent that it is covered by the Gramm- Leach-Bliley Act (Public Law 106–102) and implementing regulations.

Section 5. Protecting Personally Identifiable Information In Public Records

(3) EXCEPTIONS.—Nothing in this section shall prohibit a government agency from providing access to records containing judges’ personally identifiable information to a third party if the third party possesses a signed release from the judge or a court order, the entity is already subject to the requirements of title V of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (1522 U.S.C. 6801 et seq.), or the third party executes a confidentiality agreement with the government agency.

Additionally, the bill limits the scope of the requirements on government agencies to prohibiting the public posting of judges PII. Originally, this section could have been read to prohibit all sharing of judges PII.

Another new addition is the exception in 5(c), impacting businesses that don’t qualify as data brokers.

Section 5. Other Businesses Exceptions

(C) EXCEPTIONS.—The restriction in subparagraph (B) shall not apply to: personally identifiable information received from a Federal Government source (or from an employee or agent of the Federal Government).

Contact ALTA at 202-296-3671 or [email protected].