After witnessing the killing of her only child at the hands of an aggrieved former litigant in July 2020, U.S. District Judge Esther Salas went on a mission to ensure her son's murder was not in vain.
That journey hit a milestone Monday, when Congress passed a law named after Salas' son, Daniel Anderl. The law aims to protect federal judges by safeguarding their personally identifiable information and that of their close relatives.
“By passing this crucial 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 the law "will undoubtedly make it harder for violent individuals to find judges’ addresses and other personal information online."
In July 2020, Salas and her husband, Mark Anderl, were celebrating the 20th birthday of their son, Daniel, when a man posing as a delivery driver came to the front door of their New Jersey home, rang the doorbell and fatally shot Daniel to death. The man also shot Salas’ husband three times. Salas was in the basement during the attack and was not injured.
Authorities said the man targeted Salas, New Jersey’s first Hispanic U.S. District judge, after he found 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 authored years after she presided over a civil case in which the man provided representation.
The tragedy prompted Salas and her husband to reach out to their three New Jersey federal representatives: Sens. Bob Menendez and Cory Booker, and Rep. Mikie Sherrill, all Democrats.
"They explained what they wanted to see done. They wanted this bill to become his legacy," Menendez said in a press conference Monday.
Sherrill led the effort to pass the legislation in the House while Booker and Menendez focused efforts in the Senate.
"We can't forget that Judge Salas was not just targeted for being a judge. She was targeted for being a woman on the bench, and specifically one of only two Latina judges in the District Court of New Jersey," Menendez added. "Judge Salas and her family were victims of a horrific hate crime."
Congress ultimately passed the Daniel Anderl Judicial Security and Privacy Act on Thursday as part of the annual defense authorization bill.
Following Menendez's remarks on Monday, Salas raved about the bipartisan support the legislation received.
"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 specifically prohibits the selling, trading, transferring or purchasing of judges’ personal information online. It allows federal judges to request their information be taken down if it is publicly available and authorizes the U.S. 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.