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Online Privacy Shield for Judges Advanced by Senate Judiciary

Dec. 2, 2021, 5:08 PM

A bill to shield judges’ personally identifiable information online advanced out of the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously after members tabled amendments to boost security for government officials and members of Congress.

The committee voted 22-0 at a Thursday markup in support of the Daniel Anderl Judicial Security and Privacy Act of 2021 (S. 2340). That bill would prohibit data brokers from knowingly selling, trading, licensing purchase, or providing judges’ personally identifiable information, such as home addresses.

The legislation was first introduced in both chambers after the 2020 fatal shooting of U.S. District Judge Esther Salas’ son at their family home in New Jersey. The bill, which is named in honor of Salas son, didn’t advance last Congress and was reintroduced in July.

“Keeping our federal judges safe is an urgent priority,” said Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) one of the bill’s original cosponsors. “It is one of the equal branches of our government and we should stand by their important role and the urgency of their safety amidst rising threats.”

Lawmakers considered two amendments to expand the protections in the bill to government officials and members of Congress. Neither amendment was added but lawmakers on both sides of the aisle expressed interest in pursuing proposals for those protections separately.

One of those amendments was introduced by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and would have applied the protections of the bill to all government officials at the federal, state, local, and tribal level. The committee voted not to adopt the amendment 9-13.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) proposed a similar amendment to apply the legislation to current and former members of Congress, which he withdrew after it he said it looked like it wouldn’t gain enough support to be included.

Those members interested in taking pursuing broader security proposals included Booker, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), and Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.).

Last year, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) blocked an attempt to pass the bill by unanimous consent citing concerns that it should also cover members of Congress.

Lawmakers agreed to a manager’s amendment on the bill. It now goes to the full Senate for further consideration. The House version of the bill (H.R. 4436) awaits action by the House Judiciary Committee.

The committee again held another bipartisan bill on the schedule, the Open Courts Act (S.2614), which would make the federal court records system PACER free to the general public.

That bill passed the House last year by voice vote. It was opposed by the judiciary, which said in a letter to House leadership at the time that it would have “devastating budgetary and operational impact on the Judiciary and our ability to serve the public.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Madison Alder in Washington at malder@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Seth Stern at sstern@bloomberglaw.com; John Crawley at jcrawley@bloomberglaw.com