Are Judges’ Safety at Risk? The Increase in Personal Threats Prompts the Introduction of the Daniel Anderl Judicial Security and Privacy Act

When a judge renders a legal decision, they hardly anticipate that their commitment to serving the public could make themselves or their family a target for violence. Rather than undergo the appeals process when an unfavorable verdict is reached, disgruntled civilians are threatening and even attacking the presiding judges and their families – placing them in fear of their lives.

Earlier this month, the federal judiciary introduced legislation which aims to safeguard the personal information of judges and their immediate family members within federal databases and restrict data aggregators from reselling that information. The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts announced their support for the Daniel Anderl Judicial Security and Privacy Act of 2021, named for the late son of Judge Esther Salas of the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey.

The bill comes in response to the tragedy that occurred on July 19, 2020, when an angered attorney disguised as a FedEx delivery driver showed up at the Salas’ home and opened fire. In attempting to assassinate Salas, the gunman shot and killed her 20-year-old son, Daniel, and wounded her husband, attorney Mark A. Anderl. A day after the racially motivated attack, the gunman, Roy Den Hollander, was found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

The Manhattan attorney and self-proclaimed “anti-feminist” appeared in Salas’ courtroom months prior to the attack. According to the FBI, Hollander had detailed information on Salas and her family, in addition to several other targets on his radar.  An autobiography published to Hollander’s personal website revealed anti-feminist ideology and his extreme displeasure with Salas, including the following posts:

  • “If she ruled draft registration unconstitutional, the Feminists who believed females deserved preferential treatment would criticize her. If she ruled that it did not violate the Constitution, then those Feminists who advocate for equal treatment would criticize her. Either way it was lose-lose for Salas unless someone took the risk of leading the way”
  • “Female judges didn’t bother me as long as they were middle age or older black ladies…Latinas, however, were usually a problem — driven by an inferiority complex.”
  • In another passage, he wrote that Salas was a “lazy and incompetent Latina judge appointed by Obama.”
  • He criticized Salas’ resume, writing that “affirmative action got her into and through college and law school,” and that her one accomplishment was “high school cheerleader.”


In a news video two-weeks after the incident, Salas shared that “unfortunately, for my family, the threat was real, and the free flow of information from the internet allowed this sick and depraved human being to find all our personal information and target us. In my case, the monster knew where I lived and what church we attended and had a complete dossier on me and my family.” Since her sons’ killing, Judge Salas has been personally advocating for stronger protections to ensure that judges are able to render decisions without fear of reprisal or retribution – not only for safety purposes, but because our democracy depends on an independent judiciary.


Sadly, Judge Salas is not alone in the terrible misfortune that occurred last year. Judges are regularly threatened and harassed, specifically after high-profile legal battles with increased media attention – increasing 400% over the past five years. Four federal judges have been murdered since 1979. District Judge John Wood was assassinated outside his home in 1979 by hitman Charles Harrelson. In 1988, U.S. District Judge Richard Daronco was shot and killed in the front yard of his Pelham, New York, home. In 1989, Circuit Judge Robert Vance was killed when he opened a mail bomb sent to his home. District Judge John Roll was shot in the back and killed in 2011 at an event for Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was also shot and injured. (

Thankfully, not all threats result in successful or fatal attacks – but the rise of intimidation tactics and inappropriate communications with federal judges and other court personnel has quadrupled since 2015.

U.S. District Judge Julie Kocurek was shot in front of her family in 2015. She miraculously survived but sustained severe injuries and underwent dozens of surgeries. The attempted assassin was a plaintiff before her court and had been tracking the judges’ whereabouts. Former Texas Federal Judge Liz Lang Miers attributes the attacks to someone misperceiving a ruling and acting irrationally “as opposed to understanding the justice system.”

In 2017, Seattle federal Judge James Robart received more than 42,000 letters, emails and calls, including more than 100 death threats, after he temporarily blocked President Donald Trump’s travel ban that barred people from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen from entering the U.S. for 90 days. (

The Internet, notably social media, has amplified the criticisms that citizens have with the judicial system. Rather than listening to and comprehending the entirety of a court ruling, an individual can fire off a tweet or post at the click of a button, spreading that inaccurate information worldwide. Before long, hundreds of thousands of people have seen that communication and are quick to draw conclusions despite not understanding the merits of the legal opinion. Misinformation, or misleading information or arguments, often aiming to influence a subset of the public, spreads rapidly. Data indicates that articles containing misinformation were among the most viral content, with “falsehoods diffusing significantly farther, faster, deeper, and more broadly than the truth in all categories of information.” (


Since 1789, federal judges have been entitled to home and court security systems and protections by the U.S. Marshals service – however the threats and attacks continue to prevail.

As elected public servants, judges’ information is made publicly available and easily accessible through a simple Google search. The Daniel Anderl Judicial Security and Privacy Act would shield the information of federal judges and their families, including home addresses, Social Security numbers, contact information, tax records, marital and birth records, vehicle information, photos of their vehicle and home, and the name of the schools and employers of immediate family members.

Many officials are onboard with the proposed legislation. Senator Menendez, who recommended Judge Salas to President Barack Obama for appointment to the federal bench, reveals that “the threats against our federal judiciary are real and they are on the rise.  We must give the U.S. Marshals and other agencies charged with guarding our courts the resources and tools they need to protect our judges and their families. I made a personal commitment to Judge Salas that I would put forth legislation to better protect the men and women who sit on our federal judiciary, to ensure their independence in the face of increased personal threats on judges and help prevent this unthinkable tragedy from ever happening again to anyone else.” Moreover, Rep. Fitzpatrick noted that, “in order to bolster our ability to protect our federal judges and their families, we need to safeguard the personally identifiable information of our judges and optimize our nation’s personal data sharing and privacy practices.”

Additionally, the bill is supported by the New Jersey State Bar Association, National Association of Attorneys General, Judicial Conference of the United States, Federal Magistrate Judges Association, American Bar Association (ABA), Dominican Bar Association, New York Intellectual Property Law Association, Federal Bar Council, Hispanic National Bar Association (HNBA), and Federal Judges Association.


In memory of Daniel Anderl, taken too soon at 20-years-young. As the only child of U.S. District Court Judge Esther Salas and defense attorney Mark Anderl, Daniel gave his life to save his parents. He was a student at Catholic University in Washington, DC. There is a plaque honoring Daniel at the entrance of the Columbus School of Law at Catholic University, as he planned to pursue a career in law. The plaque is also to serve as a reminder to young people that

Snapchat’s “Speed Filter” Fuels Fatalities

Upon its launch in 2011, the mobile app known as “Snapchat” quickly gained downloads, now totaling 265 million daily active Snapchat users worldwide. Snapchat revolutionized the social media world with the introduction of filters – debuting “smart filters” to capture time, speed, and temperature in 2013, followed by “Geofilters” in August 2014 and “Discover” and “Lenses” in January 2015.

Snapchat in 2013

While filters can provide fun visual effects and cool color edits, the “speed filter” drew criticism early on for encouraging yet another distraction on the road for young drivers. Newly licensed teens could hardly wait to get in the driver’s seat and snap a selfie overlayed with vehicle speed in real time. The widespread belief is that users would earn a virtual trophy through the apps reward system for snapping speeds over 100 miles per hour (mph) – further fueling the recklessness.

img: The Odyssey

Concerns were raised early on regarding the dangers of the speed filter, and Snap responded by attaching a “Do Not Snap and Drive” disclaimer in 2016. Despite the company’s minimal efforts to limit the use of the feature while driving, life-threatening and fatal car accidents linked to the filter prevailed.


Studies indicate that Snapchat leads the list of apps most distracting for young drivers, and more than a third of teens surveyed admitted to Snapping while driving. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration reports nearly 26,004 deaths due to distracted driving accidents between 2012 and 2019. By 2018, distraction-related fatalities increased by 10% – killing 2,841 people and injuring 400,000 more. Drivers under the age of 19 account for the largest proportion of distracted driving fatalities.

One of the earliest accidents involving the filter occurred in September 2015, with 18-year-old Christal McGee behind the wheel of her father’s Mercedes. McGee admitted to grabbing her phone and using the filter to see how fast she could go. The Atlanta-teen doubled the speed limit at roughly 113 mph before colliding with an Uber driver who was just beginning his night shift. As a result of the accident, the Uber driver was hospitalized for months and suffered a traumatic brain injury. He sued both McGee and Snapchat for negligence damages, alleging equal responsibility by Snapchat for the crash because they failed to delete the miles per hour filter after it was cited in similar accidents prior to the September 2015 crash.

Likewise, an incident occurred in late 2016 when 22-year-old Pablo Cortes posted a Snapchat video with the speed filter, accelerating from 82 mph to 115.6 mph. Just nine minutes later, Cortes lost control and struck a minivan – killing both himself and his 19-year-old passenger, Jolie Bartolome, as well as a mother and two of her children.

In the past, Snapchat has not faced liability for incidents arising out of the speed filter due to the Communications Decency Act (CDA). Section 230 of the CDA states that “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider” (47 U.S.C. § 230). Congress established the CDA in 1996, with the intent to better regulate pornographic material on the Internet. With the growth of social media, it serves as a powerful tool that shields tech companies and social media platforms from potential liability for content posted by their users.

However, just last month the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit unanimously held that the CDA does not shield the creators of Snapchat from claims. The lawsuit in Lemmon v. Snap arises out of an incident that occurred May of 2017, fatally wounding three young boys. The 17-year-old driver and his two buddies used the speed filter to record a high of 123 mph, just before hitting a tree at 113 mph. The parents of the deceased teens filed a lawsuit in 2019, alleging the “negligent design” of the Snap Inc. app contributed to the crash by encouraging speeding. The trial judge erroneously dismissed the case in 2020, citing the immunity social media companies enjoy under the CDA.

In departing from the district court’s decision, the Ninth Circuit applied the three-prong test set forth in Barnes v. Yahoo!, Inc. (2009) to assess whether Section 230 would apply to immunize Snap from the claims. As such, CDA immunity will shield Snap from liability only if  “(1) a provider or user of an interactive computer service (2) whom a plaintiff seeks to treat, under a state law cause of action, as a publisher or speaker (3) of information provided by another information content provider.” (quoting Barnes). In thoughtfully analyzing each of the three prongs, the Court reversed the district court’s dismissal of the lawsuit and remanded it for further proceedings.

This new recognition rests on the fact that the suit is not about what someone posted to Snapchat, but rather negligence in the design of the app overall. The decision is a huge turning point in Internet law and regulation because it establishes that an internet company can be held liable for products with a defective design. Although the language of Section 230 grants broad discretion, Lemmon is a clear demonstration that Internet immunity has its limits and is not guaranteed. While the ruling is among the minority that have rejected CDA immunity to design claims against internet platforms, this radical departure from earlier decisions opens the door to future legal challenges to CDA immunity by alleging injury based on how the website’s design affected the user, rather than how the user’s content affected a third party.

Skip to toolbar