1,000 Federal Judges Seek to Remove Personal Info From Internet as Threats Skyrocket

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  • More than 1,000 federal judges have asked the U.S. Courts system for help removing personally identifiable information from the internet.
  • The program was adopted in response to the 2020 murder of the son of a New Jersey judge at their house.
  • The U.S. Marshals Service says that there were more than 4,500 threats or inappropriate communications against judges and other court personnel in 2021, a four-fold increase since 2015.
  • In June, an armed California man was arrested outside the Maryland home of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, whom he allegedly planned to kill over an expected abortion ruling.

More than 1,000 federal judges have asked the U.S. Courts system for help removing personally identifiable information from the internet under a program implemented after a New Jersey judge's son was murdered at their house.

That is nearly one-third of the active and retired federal judges eligible for the program, a spokesman for the U.S. Courts system told CNBC on Friday. The response to the online scrubbing program was detailed in the agency's annual report, released Thursday.

The report also details what it called "a dramatic rise in threats and inappropriate communications against federal judges and other court personnel" in recent years.

Those incidents numbered 4,511 in 2021, a more than four-fold increase from 926 in 2015, according to the report. It cited the U.S. Marshals Service, the agency responsible for protecting federal judges and courthouses.

"Some cases have involved litigants angered by judges' decisions in cases," the report said. "And the home addresses of judges handling controversial cases have been circulated on social media."

The Justice Department's internal watchdog in a 2021 report found that the Marshals Service lacked enough resources to adequately protect federal judges and prosecutors.

Last June, a California man armed with a handgun, a 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 of his expectation that the Supreme Court would overturn the federal right to abortion. The court did so less than two weeks later.

Three months before Kavanaugh was targeted, the U.S. Courts system's Threat Management Branch began helping judges remove or redact their personally identifiable information from internet sites.

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

The information targeted for removal includes home addresses, Social Security numbers, bank account numbers, and the addresses of children's schools and daycare centers, according to the spokesman.

The National Law Journal first reported that 1,000 judges so far had opted into the program, which began with congressional authorization in anticipation of a recently enacted law addressing redaction of judges' personal information.

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

The Supreme Court conducts its own program removing personally identifiable information for that court's nine justices.

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 in federal databases. It also restricts the reselling of such information by data aggregators.

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

In July 2020, a lawyer who described himself as "anti-feminist" posed as a deliveryman when he went to the New Jersey home of Salas, and fatally shot Daniel, who was celebrating his 20th birthday.

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

Hollander, who had compiled personal information about Salas from the internet after appearing before her in a case, died by suicide later that day.

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