(NewsNation) — Protesters have gathered outside the homes of Supreme Court justices since the release of a draft Supreme Court opinion signaling the court will overturn abortion law Roe v. Wade, sparking calls to increase security around justices and their families.
While the protests have remained nonviolent, one judge knows all too well the fatal consequences that can take place when a judge’s home is found by angry people.
Judge Esther Salas’ son was killed in 2020 when a disgruntled lawyer came to her home and opened fire on her son and husband, critically wounding her husband and killing her son.
Her son, Daniel Anderl, died trying to protect his parents, she says. The shooter was gone by the time she scrambled to the door. He was later found with self-inflicted gunshot wounds and a dossier of private information on Salas.
Since the incident, Salas, a U.S. District Court judge in New Jersey, has been lobbying lawmakers to pass the Daniel Anderl Judicial Privacy and Security Act, which would shield identifiable information of federal judges and the family members who share their residence.
This includes home addresses, Social Security numbers, contact information and tax records.
The bill stalled on the Senate floor Thursday. Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky said he does not want to support the bill unless it extends to members of Congress, as well.
Salas believes in the right of people to protest and debate court rulings, but argues those debates should take place in the public forum, not outside the homes of justices.
“Outside residences of justices, I think is ill-advised and I quite frankly know that we can look at the ability for individuals to speak their mind, that’s what this country is all about. But I think we have to look at the hard realities,” Salas said Thursday on NewsNation’s “Dan Abrams Live.”
Those hard realities include what happened to her son. She said the cold truth is that people, especially angry people, are unpredictable and protections need to be in place.
“Look at my situation, one would have never guess that a lawyer, a litigant would amass such information and plan to assassinate me, I would have never believed that possible before July 19, 2020,” Salas said. “But it is possible and there are a lot of people, unfortunately, that get angry with judges and we need to protect judges.”
The current protests happening outside the homes of conservative Supreme Court justices Amy Coney Barrett, Brett Kavanaugh and Samuel Alito, who authored the leaked draft, come with a weight of irony, Salas says.
As Congress is now trying to explore ways to keep these justices safe, she says the protests at their homes could have been avoided had they just passed her proposed law months ago.
“A few of our leaders have decided if it’s not them, it’s no one at all,” Salas said.
She said that mentality, held by people including Paul, is one of two wings of opposition she has seen to her proposal. The other argues judges should not get preferential treatment.
“I want to remind the American people that judicial officers are in a very unique position,” Salas said. “We hear cases on a daily basis and we rule on cases that are profoundly personal to the litigants involved … that creates emotion.”