Chiaravalloti bill to stiffen penalties for harassing current or former judges clears Assembly panel

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A bill introduced by Assembly Majority Whip Nick Chiaravalloti (D-31) to stiffen penalties for harassing current or former judges advanced the New Jersey Assembly Judiciary Committee yesterday.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

“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,” Chiaravalloti said in a statement.

“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. This legislation provides for increased protection for judges and stronger penalties for anyone who harasses a sitting or former judge in New Jersey.”

Under bill (A-5599), also sponsored by Assemblywomen Angela McKnight (D-31) and Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-37), 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.

Since 1789, the U.S. Marshals Service has been responsible for judicial security in federal courts and protects about 2,700 judges.

The American Bar Association Journal 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 has logged about 3,000 potential threats or “inappropriate communications” – on average – against judges, members of the judiciary, and federal facilities.

The measure will now go to the Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin (D-19) for further consideration.