Esther Salas, the federal judge whose son was shot dead in July by a disgruntled defense lawyer, has penned a powerful essay about the tragedy.
On Tuesday, The New York Times published an op-ed written by the U.S. District Judge titled "My Son Was Killed Because I’m a Federal Judge." In the piece, Salas recounts the events of July 19, when self-described "anti-feminist" lawyer Roy Den Hollander arrived outside of her New Jersey home with a gun.
When her son Daniel Anderl answered the door, the 20-year-old was shot and killed. Salas' husband Mark Anderl was shot three times and seriously injured.
"This tragedy, every mother’s worst nightmare, happened for a reason wholly unrelated to either my husband or my son, but because of my job: I am a United States District Court judge. A lawyer who had appeared before me was angered by the pace of a lawsuit he had filed in my court. He came to my home seeking revenge," she wrote.
Den Hollander posed as a Fed-Ex delivery driver to carry out the shooting. "Investigators told me they believe Daniel thwarted a planned attack on me by stepping toward the gunman. My husband slowed the attack further by staying on his feet even after he was hit by three gunshots at close range. By the time I reached the main floor, the attacker had fled," she recalled.
The next day, Den Hollander was found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
"My attacker sought to hurt me, but his ire and his focus were not unique," added Salas. "Federal judges are at risk from other would-be attackers."
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Salas said since her son's death nearly five months ago, she has "vowed to do everything I can to make similar tragedies less likely." She noted that New Jersey passed "Daniel's Law" last month, banning the "distribution of personal information, including home addresses and phone numbers, for judges, prosecutors and law enforcement personnel."
The Daniel Anderl Judicial Security and Privacy Act is with the Senate, and a similar bill has been brought to the House of Representatives.
"For judges and their families, better security is a matter of life and death. But its importance goes beyond our well-being alone," she wrote. "For our nation’s sake, judicial security is essential. Federal judges must be free to make their decisions, no matter how unpopular, without fear of harm. The federal government has a responsibility to protect all federal judges because our safety is foundational to our great democracy."
Salas, who was nominated to the U.S. District Court for New Jersey in 2010 by then-President Barack Obama, added: "A determined killer will always be difficult to stop, but we make it far too easy to locate judges. Removing our personally identifiable information from the internet is a critical first defense."
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