Ensuring greater protection of current and former judges by establishing an order of protection for current or former judges who are experiencing harassment, legislation sponsored by Assembly members Nicholas A. Chiaravalloti (D-Hudson), Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen) and Angela McKnight (D-Hudson) was signed into law Monday.
Since 1789, the U.S. Marshals Service has been responsible for judicial security in federal courts and protects about 2,700 judges. An American Bar Association Journal article noted that there has been a “dramatic increase” in threats against judges, prosecutors, and other court officers, according to the marshals. In the last five years, the Marshals Service on average has logged about 3,000 potential threats or “inappropriate communications” against judges, members of the judiciary, and federal facilities.
Under the new law (formerly bill A-5599), harassment of a current or former judge would be upgraded to a crime of a fourth-degree, which punishable by up to 18 months imprisonment, a fine of up to $10,000, or both. The bill will also authorize a law enforcement agency to petition the Supreme Court for a temporary order of protection if a threat against a current or former judge is deemed credible.
The sponsors issued the following statement on the new law:
“Current and former judges should not live in fear of making the best decisions in any case that comes before them, and it is time for us to do we can to protect them.
“Judges are expected to make the difficult and sometimes unpopular decisions that come along with their job. They should never be harassed or have their safety and that of their loved ones placed in jeopardy for those decisions.
“Social media and online sites have made it easier to find personal information. The new law provides for increased protection for judges and stronger penalties for anyone who harasses a sitting or former judge in New Jersey.”