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Rand Paul Again Blocks Quick Passage of Judicial Security Bill

May 12, 2022, 8:09 PM

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) blocked an attempt to unanimously pass a bipartisan bill to shield federal judges’ personal information online for a second time because it doesn’t include members of Congress.

His objection to Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.)'s Thursday motion for unanimous consent on the bill that was introduced after the murder U.S. District Judge Esther Salas’s son is a repeat of an exchange the lawmakers had in December 2020.

This time, however, it comes amid heightened attention on judges’ security.

A leaked draft opinion showing a majority of the Supreme Court poised to overturn Roe v. Wade prompted protests outside several justices’ homes. The protests prompted calls for more security for judges and justices.

The Senate moved quickly this week to pass a bill, the Supreme Court Police Parity Act (S. 4160), that would extend protection to the justices’ families.

In a statement the following day, Salas applauded those efforts but called on Congress to act on the bill named in honor of her son, which has stalled. “The time to enact that bill is now,” Salas said.

The Daniel Anderl Judicial Security and Privacy Act of 2021 (S. 2340; H.R. 4436) advanced unanimously out of the Senate judiciary Committee in December. The House Judiciary Committee hasn’t acted on the House version.

Adding Lawmakers

Paul said he agreed with the “spirit of the bill” but also wanted lawmakers included and proposed an amendment to that effect.

“Extending the provisions of this bill to members of Congress would do nothing to change the content,” Paul said. “In fact, I believe our legislative changes adds four words ‘and members of Congress.’”

Menendez said he would work with Paul on separate legislation but worries an expansion of the bill would make it more difficult to pass.

“We have an opportunity to take a moment of tragedy and turn it into something powerful,” Menendez said in objecting to the amendment.

The bill at issue would prevent data brokers from being able to knowingly sell, trade, license purchase, or provide judges’ personally identifiable information, such as addresses.

Transparency Concerns

While it has bipartisan support, court watchdog groups have cited transparency concerns with the legislation.

“We should do more to protect judges, but this is a bad bill,” Fix the Court said in a Wednesday tweet after Salas called for enactment. The watchdog group added that the bill violates the First Amendment, is too broad, and would hamper accountability of the third branch.

Fix the Court said a narrower bill should focus on “the most critical categories” of judges private information such as home addresses, childrens’ schools, and Social Security numbers.

The Free Law Project, an organization that creates tools to help people analyze the legal system, has similarly raised First Amendment concerns.

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