Following the FBI’s execution of a lawful search warrant at former President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate to recover documents allegedly taken during his exit from the White House, threats against public servants have reached unprecedented levels. The Florida magistrate who approved the warrant has received multiple death threats and numerous anti-Semitic slurs, while his home address has been published on several right-wing websites.
On August 12, an outdoor Shabbat service at his synagogue was canceled for security reasons. In Ohio, a man wearing a body armor attempted to break into FBI headquarters in Cincinnati before being killed in a shootout with police. Several posts by the attacker on Donald Trump’s Truth Social website urged the so-called “patriots” to come to Florida and kill all federal agents.
Congress has proven it can act quickly to keep federal judges safe. Six days after a man was arrested for attempted murder outside the home of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh (armed with a Glock 17 with two magazines and ammunition, a tactical knife, spray pepper spray, hammer, screwdriver, crowbar, zip ties, and duct tape), Congress overwhelmingly approved increased security for Supreme Court justices and members of their family.
Today, the need to protect all federal judges is acute. The US Marshall’s Service reports that in 2014, 768 “inappropriate communications” were made to judges and court employees. Last year, that figure rose to 4,511. This summer, a retired Wisconsin judge was murdered by a defendant he had previously sentenced to six years in prison for burglary. The suspect carried a list of others he intended to kill, including Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). US Second Circuit Judge Richard J. Sullivan, chairman of the Judicial Conference Committee on Judicial Safety, said: “Judges should not have to fear retaliation for doing their job.
The danger posed to federal judges was made painfully clear with the 2020 murder of 20-year-old Daniel Anderl. Anderl, the only son of Federal District Judge Esther Salas, was shot in the heart by a man at the judge’s front door posing as a Fed Ex driver.
The killer, a self-proclaimed ‘anti-feminist lawyer’, had a years-long case before Judge Salas protesting the government’s ban on requiring women to sign up for conscription. Salas’ husband Mark was also seriously injured in the attack. The suspect then committed suicide, but authorities found a list of other potential targets he intended to kill. When Judge Salas was nominated by Barack Obama in 2010 to become the first Hispanic to serve on the Federal District Court, she testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee with her family proudly seated behind her. Judge Salas told the committee that her smiling son, Daniel, was “really thrilled” with his appointment.
For two years, Judge Salas has been an ardent defender of Daniel Anderl’s Law on judicial security and the protection of personal information. Popularly known as Daniel’s Law, the legislation would remove federal judges’ personal information, including home addresses and names of family members, from public access.
The legislation has been endorsed by the American Bar Association and the National Association of Attorneys General. He enjoys strong bipartisan support in Congress. By a vote of 21 to zero, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved the measure and sent it to the Senate. Anderl’s home state senators Bob Menendez and Cory Booker of New Jersey urged his immediate review.
But once that motion was introduced, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul opposed, arguing that the legislation should be changed to include members of Congress. The senses. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) introduced legislation protecting the privacy of members of Congress, and their proposal is being considered by the Judiciary Committee. Despite Booker’s argument that Daniel’s law is “ready, now”, Paul continued to oppose and the bill was shelved. Booker called the inaction “cruel”, while a disappointed Judge Salas watched the dismal proceedings from the Senate gallery.
Daniel Anderl was a rising junior at the Catholic University of America where I currently work. Anderl’s death was deeply felt across campus. Gerald Sharpe, a university student at the time, said Anderl “had a big heart, a positive attitude and a memorable smile”. During his funeral, a message was delivered on behalf of Pope Francis offering his condolences and calling for “an end to senseless violence and to work for justice, healing and peace”.
Following the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health quashing Roe v. Wade, Cardinal Wilton Gregory called on all citizens to ensure that “all of life’s problems are adequately addressed.” The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops also urged all elected officials to “enact laws and policies that promote and protect the most vulnerable among us.”
Daniel’s law presents a unique opportunity for church leaders to fulfill these commitments. But the Catholic Church has been strangely quiet. Neither Cardinal William Gregory, nor the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, nor the Catholic University have issued any statements supporting Daniel’s law. Other lay Catholic leaders have been equally silent.
A plaque honoring Daniel Anderl displayed outside the Catholic University law school says he “offered his life as an act of love”. Catholics should call for the immediate passage of Daniel’s Law when Congress resumes in September.
Cory Booker says passing it would be an “act of mercy”. The Daniel Anderl law on judicial security and the protection of privacy is ready to be passed by Congress. Daniel Anderl’s parents have waited long enough.
John Kenneth White is a professor of politics at the Catholic University of America.