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Bill expands protection for former and current judges

Legislation would tackle an uptick in threats against officers of the court

Officers of the court need to be protected.

Proposed legislation to provide greater protection for current and former judges by establishing an order of protection for judges experiencing harassment was advanced by the Assembly Judiciary Committee on May 12.

The legislation was sponsored by Assemblyman Nicholas Chiaravalloti (D-Hudson) who represents the 31st Legislative District, including Bayonne.

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.

“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 what we can to protect them,”  Chiaravalloti said. “Judges are expected to make the difficult and sometimes unpopular decisions that come along with their jobs. 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. This legislation provides for increased protection for judges and stronger penalties for anyone who harasses a sitting or former judge in New Jersey.”

Under the bill (A-5599), harassment of a current or former judge would be upgraded to a crime of fourth-degree, which is punishable by up to 18 months in prison, a fine of up to $10,000, or both. The bill will 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 measure will now go to the Assembly Speaker for further consideration.

For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at disrael@hudsonreporter.com.

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