Demand Progress Action Letter to House Urging “No” Vote on NDAA due to “Judicial Security and Privacy” Provision that Undermines Court Ethics & Accountability

The NDAA, set for consideration under suspension today, contains language that undermines Supreme and federal court ethics & accountability in language never seen before yesterday. Unless that language is removed, we urge you to vote NO on the NDAA when it comes up under suspension today.

The Judicial Security and Privacy Act–

  • Allows judges, their family members, and federal courts to order websites and data brokers to remove information off the internet and out of their databases, including a judge’s birthday and the name of an employer of the judge’s spouse, with failure to do so subject to a fine + damages for noncompliance.
  • Makes internet companies like Google and Facebook liable when third parties post this information on their websites and don’t take it down upon demand through a sneaky exemption to section 230. (The language is convoluted)

Back in April, the Wall Street Journal reported that “more than 130 federal judges unlawfully ruled in cases involving companies in which they or their families held shares.” That reporting was only possible because a non-profit organization, the Free Law Project, had obtained judicial financial disclosure information and published it.

It is likely the Free Law Project, and other transparency organizations, would not be willing to undertake a similar effort should this law come into effect. The bills’ language creates considerable risk for their gathering and publication of information about judges that would hold them accountable for ethical lapses. FLP‘s effort, which provided fodder to the WSJ reporting, may not meet the limited safe harbor exemptions; the legislation’s rule of construction is in favor of judicial security over accountability; and determinations of what falls within the law would be the federal courts — who are interested parties.

Judicial security is indisputably important. The Judicial Security and Privacy Act, however, is not fully baked, and with new language buried inside the provision, which starts on page 2540 of the NDAA (section 5931 et seq.), it is not ready to become law.

Please vote NO when the NDAA comes up on suspension today unless the Judicial Security and Privacy Act is removed. When First Amendment rights are at stake, and judicial credibility is in the balance, Congress must err on the side of getting this right.