Federal judges remove personal information from the Internet

A television news microphone outside the Thurgood Marshall federal courthouse in New York, US, Tuesday, December 28, 2021.

Angus Mordant Bloomberg | Getty Images

More than 1,000 federal judges have asked the US Courts system to help remove personal information from the Internet under a program launched after a New Jersey judge’s son was killed in his home.

That’s about one-third of active and retired federal judges who qualify for the program, a spokeswoman for the US Courts program told CNBC on Friday. The response to the online scrubbing program is detailed in the agency’s annual report, released Thursday.

The report also describes what it called “a dramatic increase in threats and inappropriate communications against federal judges and other court personnel” in recent years.

Those incidents totaled 4,511 in 2021, a fourfold increase from 926 in 2015, according to the report. It cited the US Marshals Service, the agency responsible for protecting federal judges and courts.

“Some cases involve plaintiffs who are upset by the judges’ decisions in the cases,” said the report. “And the home addresses of judges in charge of controversial cases have spread on social media.”

The Justice Department’s internal auditor in a 2021 report found that the Marshals Service does not have enough resources to protect federal judges and prosecutors.

Last June, a California man armed with a gun, knife and pepper spray was arrested outside the home of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

Federal authorities said the man, Nicholas John Roske, planned to kill Kavanaugh in part because he expected the Supreme Court to overturn the federal right to abortion. The court did this within two weeks.

Three months before Kavanaugh was targeted, the US Courts Administration began helping judges remove or redact their personally identifiable information online.

More than 600 judges participated in the program in November, and about 400 more have done so since then, the spokesman said.

Information targeted for removal includes home addresses, Social Security numbers, bank account numbers, and addresses of children’s schools and daycare centers, according to a spokesperson.

The National Law Journal first reported that 1,000 judges have so far taken part in the program, which began with congressional approval in anticipation of a recently enacted law that deals with the release of judges’ personal information.

About 3,330 judges are eligible for this program, and about 2,300 of them are actively working.

The Supreme Court is running a program to remove personal information that identifies nine judges of that court.

In December, President Joe Biden signed into law the Daniel Anderl Judicial Security and Privacy Act, which limits how much personally identifiable information about federal judges can be seen on federal websites. It also restricts the resale of such information by data aggregators.

The law is named after the late son of US District Judge Esther Salas.

In July 2020, a self-described “feminist” lawyer posed as a delivery man when he went to the New Jersey home of Salas, and shot and killed Daniel, who was celebrating his 20th birthday.

The gunman, Roy Den Hollander, shot Salas’ husband several times, seriously wounding him. The judge who was in the basement of this home at the time was not injured.

Hollander, who had compiled personal information about Salas online after his trial, died by suicide later that day.

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