Excerpted from a Forbes article by Alonzo Martinez

In response to rising violence and threats against public officials, state legislatures across the United States have enacted judicial privacy laws to protect the privacy and safety of these individuals. These laws aim to restrict access to personal information that could be used to target public officials and their families. While these laws are essential for ensuring the safety of those in sensitive roles, they also have significant implications for employers conducting background checks.

The Need for Judicial Privacy

Elected officials, judges, election officials, school board members, and other public servants have faced increased violence and threats at their homes or the homes of their family members. Notable incidents include:

These incidents have prompted legislative measures to protect public officials and judicial figures. However, the measures differ concerning the protected individuals’ roles, the scope of covered data, opt-in and out processes, applicability to private entities, and penalties for non-compliance.

The Daniel Anderl Judicial Secrecy and Privacy Act

The Anderl Act, passed by the U.S. Congress in 2022, offers comprehensive protections to “at-risk individuals” in the federal judiciary, including judges and their immediate family members. Covered information includes home addresses, personal contact information, social security numbers, and bank account details.

New Jersey’s Daniel’s Law

Named in memory of Daniel Anderl, Daniel’s Law extends protections to judicial officers, law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and their immediate family members. The scope of covered information includes home addresses and unpublished home or cell phone numbers.

Maryland’s Judge Andrew F. Wilkinson Judicial Security Act

The Maryland Act protects current or retired judges, magistrates, and commissioners, along with their immediate family members. The scope of “personal information” covered by the Maryland Act is broad, including home addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, social security numbers, driver’s license numbers, bank account details, vehicle identifiers, birth or marital records, children’s names, and information about schools, daycares, places of worship, or employment locations for family members. Maryland’s Act allows for private causes of action for actual damages, attorney’s fees, and punitive damages in cases of willful violations.

Minnesota Judicial Data Privacy Law

Effective August 1, 2024, Minnesota’s law protects the personal information of judicial officials in Minnesota, including judges, justices, and judicial employees. It classifies residential addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, and names of children or spouses as private data.

Wisconsin Act 235

The Wisconsin Judicial Privacy Act protects the personal information of judicial officers, including judges, justices, and commissioners. The law defines personal information to include home addresses, personal phone numbers, email addresses, social security numbers, driver’s license numbers, bank account information, vehicle identifiers, and the identification of minor children.

Employer Impact

Judicial privacy laws significantly impact employers conducting background checks. Unless the law contains an express exception, these laws restrict access to the personal information of judicial officers and other protected public servants. The inability to access certain protected information could lead to challenges in verifying candidates’ identities and backgrounds, particularly when searching public records. As a result, background checks will be incomplete or may not be able to be conducted. To address these challenges, employers should engage legal counsel.

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