Rand Paul just blocked a bill to protect judges following the killing of N.J. federal judge’s son

After U.S. District Court Judge Esther Salas’ son was gunned down at their home in North Brunswick in July, U.S. Sens. Robert Menendez and Cory Booker vowed to pass legislation to protect members of the federal judiciary by keeping their personal information secret. Offering a bill similar to a state […]

After U.S. District Court Judge Esther Salas’ son was gunned down at their home in North Brunswick in July, U.S. Sens. Robert Menendez and Cory Booker vowed to pass legislation to protect members of the federal judiciary by keeping their personal information secret.

Offering a bill similar to a state law signed by Gov. Phil Murphy last month, Menendez and Booker sought to pass the measure in the Senate Wednesday, only to run into opposition from U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky.

The Daniel Anderl Judicial Security and Privacy Act, sponsored by Menendez, Booker and Rep. Mikie Sherrill, D-11th Dist., would prevent federal agencies and commercial data collectors from providing information such as home addresses, Social Security numbers, contact information and other personal data.

“We may not be able to eliminate hatred from someone’s heart, but what we can do is make sure that the men and women who serve on our federal bench do not make for such easy targets,” Menendez said.

It was named for Salas’ son, who was killed when he opened the door for someone who claimed to be a package delivery person and then began firing.

The assailant, who found Salas’ address online, also injured Salas’ husband. The judge was in the basement of her home at the time and was not injured.

The suspect, Roy Den Hollander, later killed himself.

“No person who takes on the responsibility of serving as a federal judge should ever have to live in fear that they or their family could be targeted by someone wishing to do them harm, who is able to easily access their personal information,” Booker said.

But Paul, who was attacked by a neighbor in 2017 and with his wife was confronted by victims of sexual assault who wanted him to oppose the confirmation of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh in 2018, demanded the same protections for members of Congress.

He mentioned the shootings of former Rep. Gabby Giffords, D-Ariz., at a 2011 event in her district and House Republican Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana, in 2017 at practice for the Congressional Baseball Game, even as he has opposed strengthening background checks for gun purchases.

“I really think that this important that we protect addresses for our judges but it’s also important that we do this for our elected officials,” Paul said.

Menendez said he would be willing to discuss protecting Congress in other legislation, but this measure couldn’t wait.

“This bill is for the federal judiciary because of the special threats they face and the importance of ensuring their independence in terms of being able to make judgments based on the laws and the facts, not upon some fear that lurks outside of their home our outside of their chambers,” Menendez said.

Paul then blocked the bill, but Menendez said he wasn’t giving up.

“I promised Judge Salas that her son’s death will not be in vain,” Menendez said. “We’ll make it happen, hopefully sooner rather than later, but we’re going to make this happen.”

Jonathan D. Salant may be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @JDSalant.

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