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Eleventh Circuit

Southern Florida Judge Orders Retrial for Fraud by Prosecutors. It Wasn’t Lyin’ Judge Marra

Judge Darrin P. Gayles claims during a court hearing the original prosecutors “deliberately misled this court.” He orders a new AUSA team.



July 16, 2021: S.D. Fl. Judge Orders New Trial After AUSAs ‘Deliberately Misled’ Him

A Florida federal judge said Friday he would be ordering a new trial — with a new prosecution team — for a trio of men found guilty of swiping millions of dollars from elderly people in a sweepstakes scheme, saying during a hearing that the original prosecutors “deliberately misled this court.”

A federal judge in Miami has ordered a new trial for three men found guilty in a fraudulent sweepstakes scheme after concluding that federal prosecutors had “knowingly invaded the defense camp” while lying to the court about it.

U.S. District Judge Darrin Gayles of the Southern District of Florida said two initial prosecutors in the case “deliberately misled this court.”

Law360 and the Miami Herald have coverage of Gayles’ remarks, made during a hearing Friday.

Gayles said he had allowed the three Florida men to be tried without knowing the extent of prosecutors’ alleged wrongdoing, according to the coverage.

Prosecutors had received handwritten notes from a fourth defendant who attended defense meetings without disclosing that he had obtained a plea deal with prosecutors, Gayles said during the hearing. The other defendants were working together under a joint defense agreement.

The fourth defendant, 53-year-old John Leon of Wilton Manors, Florida, had received government authorization to attend strategy meetings. Yet prosecutors lied about whether Leon had attended more than one meeting and whether they approved his participation, Gayles said.

One of the federal prosecutors had countered in a court filing that Leon’s cooperation was “kept covert” because he was cooperating with the government against a noncharged defendant, according to the Miami Herald. The prosecutor also said Leon had been instructed not to share privileged information.

The Florida defendants—46-year-old Matthew Pisoni of Fort Lauderdale, Florida; 42-year-old Marcus Pradel of Boca Raton, Florida; and 39-year-old Victor Ramirez of Aventura, Florida—had been convicted of conspiracy to commit mail fraud in 2017. They were accused of telling their scam victims that they had won a sweepstakes prize, and they had to pay $20 to $50 to redeem it.

The defendants sought a new trial after receiving new evidence obtained during an investigation by the U.S. attorney’s office and the Department of Justice’s Office of Professional Responsibility.

The government countered that much of the “newly discovered” evidence cited by the defendants wasn’t material and had no exculpatory value.

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of Florida


Four South Florida Residents Sentenced to Prison for Conspiring to Commit Sweepstakes Mail Fraud

Wednesday, November 29, 2017 | REPUBLISHED BY LIT: JUL 19, 2021

Four Florida residents were sentenced to prison terms ranging from 42 months imprisonment to 84 months imprisonment for participating in a sweepstakes mail fraud scheme.

Benjamin G. Greenberg, Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Kelly R. Jackson, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), and Antonio J. Gomez, Inspector in Charge, U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), Miami Division, made the announcement.

Matthew Pisoni, 44, of Fort Lauderdale, Marcus Pradel, 41, of Boca Raton, and Victor Ramirez, 38, of Aventura, were found guilty of conspiring to commit mail fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1349, after a five-week trial that ended on July 26, 2017. John Leon, 50, of Fort Lauderdale, previously pled guilty to conspiring to commit mail fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 371.

Today, United States District Court Judge Gayles sentenced Pisoni and Ramirez to 84 months imprisonment; Pradel to 78 months imprisonment; and Leon to 42 months imprisonment.

The trial evidence established that the four defendants, Pisoni, Pradel, Ramirez and Leon, falsely notified individuals by mail that they had won a substantial prize. The letters the defendants sent fraudulently represented that the recipients needed to pay a fee ranging from $20 to $50 to the defendants in order to redeem their purported winnings. During the course of the mail fraud conspiracy, more than 100,000 victims in the United States and abroad were fraudulently induced to pay the fees by the defendants’ misleading claims that they had won a prize. The fraudulent letters directed victims to pay the fees in cash or by check or money order payable to fictitious companies. The defendants then either processed the victims’ payments through independent payment processors or deposited them into shell bank accounts controlled directly and indirectly by the defendants and their co-conspirators. In total, over $25 million in victim payments went into the defendants’ and co-conspirators’ bank accounts.

Mr. Greenberg commended the investigative efforts of the IRS-CI, USPIS, Federal Trade Commission, Aventura Police Department, and other local and international law enforcement agencies. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Elijah Levitt, and H. Ron Davidson.

Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at or on

‘Breathtaking’ revelation delays start of prison term for men in $25M sweepstakes fraud

JAN 12, 2018 | REPUBLISHED BY LIT: JUL 19, 2021

Three South Florida men convicted of operating a $25 million sweepstakes fraud were supposed to turn themselves in to start serving their punishments on Friday afternoon.

But a judge has agreed to delay their prison surrenders after what the defense calls outrageous last-minute revelations from federal prosecutors.

It’s the latest twist in a controversial case in which victims, mostly seniors, were tricked into sending money to claim a fictitious cash prize.

“The government has disclosed breathtaking new evidence … demonstrating that its witnesses testified falsely … and that the prosecutors made misleading arguments to the court,”

appeals attorney David Oscar Markus wrote in a court filing.

Matthew Pisoni, 45, of Fort Lauderdale, Marcus Pradel, 41, of Boca Raton, and Victor Ramirez, 38, of Aventura, were found guilty of mail fraud conspiracy after a jury trial last year. John Leon, 50, of Wilton Manors, pleaded guilty to the same charge in 2016 and cooperated with investigators.

Leon was going to testify against the other three men but U.S. District Judge Darrin Gayles barred him from doing so in late 2016.

At the time, the judge also blasted the U.S. Attorney’s Office for allowing Leon to spy on his co-defendants — and their attorneys — after Leon had secretly made a plea deal with the prosecution.

The judge called the prosecution’s handling of the case “extraordinary.”

Judge blasts federal prosecutors over secret deal that led to spying on defense

“I don’t know what’s happening at the U.S. Attorney’s Office. This is the latest of a series of incidents that is affecting the credibility of this office,”

the judge said during the 2016 hearing.

“Someone has got to look at this thing … There’s a problem here that needs to be rectified in some way.”

Defense attorneys for the three men said they were blindsided by prosecutors and Leon’s defense attorney, Omar Johansson.

The problem was different from regular snitching by informants, they said, because all four men had pleaded not guilty in 2015 and, at the time, they and their attorneys had a formal agreement to work together and come up with defense strategies.

Anyone who wanted out was supposed to give 48 hours’ notice to the others.

The judge rejected their request to throw out the charges before trial because of what the defense called an illegal “invasion of the defense camp” by the prosecution.

During the 2016 hearing, prosecutors H. Ron Davidson and Elijah Levitt told the judge they had thought it was essential to keep Leon’s cooperation secret because he was working undercover for them on another related investigation.

They said they later regretted not running their decision up the chain of command at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Miami.

The judge said that, at a minimum, they should have told their bosses and asked for the judge’s explicit approval.

The prosecutors also told the judge at the hearing they had never received any documents from Leon.

The three men went to trial and were convicted, without Leon’s testimony.

Pisoni and Ramirez were sentenced to seven years in federal prison, Pradel to 6 ½ years and Leon to 3 ½ years. Leon is still expected to begin serving his sentence on Tuesday.

Judge Gayles agreed Thursday to let the other three men remain free until at least March 16. Their attorneys have requested a court hearing to find out more about the newly released information.

They may seek a new trial or use it on appeal.

Earlier this week — three days before the men were due to go to prison — prosecutors filed a court document saying they wanted to “correct” the record. They revealed that Leon gave prosecutor Levitt a document that they now believe may have been a chart or timeline — compiled for the defense by Pradel — which they had claimed they never received.

They now can’t find the document, they wrote.

“The government believes that this document may have been the timeline discussed during the hearings, but the government cannot be certain because the document was placed in a sealed file folder without being examined and no federal agent or Assistant United States Attorney has ever opened the sealed file folder and read the document contained therein,”

they wrote.

“Moreover, Assistant United States Attorney Levitt has exhaustively searched his office’s records but has been unable to locate the sealed file folder with the document.”

Prosecutors, who previously said in court they had rejected Leon’s offer of the chart, also revealed that Leon gave handwritten notes to an IRS agent.

Pisoni, the son-in-law of the late self-help guru Wayne Dyer, was the ringleader of the fraud, according to prosecutors.

Markus, the attorney handling Pisoni’s appeal, declined to comment on the legal aspects of the case.

Pisoni returned home when he learned of the two-month reprieve on Thursday after he had already taken a flight to New Orleans on his way to surrender at his designated prison, Markus said.

The new filing raises more questions than it answers and calls “into question the credibility of the government’s presentation, witnesses, and evidence,” Markus wrote.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office declined to comment on the pending case, citing Department of Justice policy.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office has had similar issues in the past, Judge Gayles noted in the 2016 hearing.

He mentioned a reprimand issued in 2009 by a judge who ordered prosecutors to pay a defendant more than $600,000.

That judge ruled prosecutors and a Drug Enforcement Administration agent acted “vexatiously and in bad faith” when they secretly recorded a Miami defense lawyer, Markus, and his investigator in a questionable witness-tampering investigation.

An appeals court later ruled Dr. Ali Shaygan, who was found not guilty of prescription drug charges, was not entitled to the money because of how Judge Alan Gold handled the reprimands of the prosecutors.


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Eleventh Circuit

Florida Bar: Y’all Are In Contempt for Not Answering Complaints

The Florida Bar do not suspend the unresponsive lawyers, they give them a public slap. Forget about the Complainants – it’s Vacation time.



Summer Vacation Already Started at the Fl. Bar, a Very Quiet Month of Discipline

JUN 24, 2021 | REPUBLISHED BY LIT: JUL 2, 2021

The Florida Supreme Court in recent court orders disciplined five attorneys, disbarring one, suspending one, revoking the licenses of one, and reprimanding two.

Ben Ira Farbstein, 4018 Sheridan St., Hollywood, public reprimand effective immediately following an April 12 court order.

(Admitted to practice: 1982)

Farbstein was held in contempt for failing to timely respond to inquiries of the Bar.

(Case No. SC21-92)

Colleen E. Huott, 2385 NW Executive Center Drive, Suite 100, Boca Raton, disbarred, effective immediately following a May 20 court order.

(Admitted to practice: 2005)

Huott failed to respond to 10 grievances, two Orders to Show Cause from the Florida Supreme Court and a subpoena duces tecum.

Additionally, Huott received 10 trust account overdraft notices, which the Bar could not investigate due to Huott ignoring all inquiries by the Bar.

(Case No: SC21-383)

Erica Helene Kobloth, 5613 Pacific Blvd., Apt. 3307, Boca Raton, suspended for three years effective immediately following a May 19 court order.

(Admitted to practice: 2012)

Kobloth was held in contempt of the Court’s order dated Nov. 2, 2020, for failing to comply with Rule 3-5.1(h) requirements of notifying clients, opposing counsel and tribunals of her suspension.

(Case No: SC21-432)

Beverly T. Shaw, 6865 19th St. South, St. Petersburg, public reprimand effective immediately following a May 19 court order.

(Admitted to practice: 1998)

Shaw was held in contempt and publicly reprimanded for failing to timely respond to official Bar inquiries.

(Case No: SC21-157)

Heyward Silcox III, 22 Tulip Lane, Apt. 307, Cocoa Beach, disciplinary revocation with leave to seek readmission after five years, effective 30 days following a May 6 court order.

(Admitted to practice: 2018)

On or about June 26, 2020, in the United States District Court, Northern District of California, Silcox pleaded guilty to three counts of illegal importation of a controlled substance, specifically the Schedule IV narcotic Tramadol.

Prior to his plea, Silcox successfully completed a chemical dependency treatment program on March 6, 2020.

Silcox has also signed a two-year contract with Florida Lawyers Assistance, Inc.

(Case No: SC21-290)


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Editors Choice

The Senate Judiciary Committee Has a Responsibility to Forcefully Reject this Judicial Overreach

LIF and LIT has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that there are many rogue judges on our Federal Benches. This request is in direct violation of the US Constitution.



Principles for Federal Judicial Privacy Legislation
Protection of Judges’ Personally Identifiable Information

Further to our article on Judges wanting God Status and Protection from Scrutiny by Tax Payers and Citizens, the following article transcribes the letter circulating congress and the Judicial Senate Committee…

September 4, 2020
Honorable Lindsey Graham Chairman
Committee on the Judiciary United States Senate Washington, DC 20510

Dear Mr. Chairman:

In my August 19, 2020 letter to House and Senate leadership, I outlined six recommendations approved by the Judicial Conference of the United States to improve judicial security.

That letter was prompted by the July 2020 attack on the family of United States District Court Judge Esther Salas that resulted in the murder of her 20-year-old son, Daniel, and the critical wounding of her husband, Mark.

Unfortunately, too many others in our judicial family have experienced similar tragedy and grief. The murders of United States District Judge John Wood (1979), United States District Judge Richard Daronco (1988), United States Circuit Judge Robert Vance (1989), United States District Judge John Roll (2011), family members of United States District Judge Joan Lefkow (2005), and now the son of United States District Judge Esther Salas were tragic targeted attacks against federal judges and their families.

Unfortunately, threats have greatly multiplied over the past five years and require immediate legislative action to enhance security protections.

Among the recommendations approved by the Judicial Conference is to seek legislation to enhance the protection of judges’ personally identifiable information (PII), particularly on the internet.

Another recommendation is to seek legislation to eliminate the sunset provision in 5 U.S.C. app. § 105(b)(3)(E), which grants the Judicial Conference authority to redact financial disclosure reports.

Other recommendations are for additional appropriations – for the upgrade, installation, and continued sustainment of the Home Intrusion Detection Systems program; for additional deputy U.S. Marshals; and for the Federal Protective Service (FPS) to fund the required upgrades for courthouse security camera systems.

A final recommendation is to support the development of a resource to monitor the public availability of judges’ PII, inform judges of security vulnerabilities created by this information, and where necessary, advise the appropriate law enforcement of an inappropriate communication.

James C. Duff


Honorable Dianne Feinstein
Honorable Cory Booker
Honorable Bob Menendez

The judiciary supports the protection of and prevention of unauthorized release of personally identifiable information of federal judicial officers and their immediate families (“Judges’ Personally Identifiable Information” or “JPII”), particularly such information that is available and distributed through the internet. “Immediate family” includes a judicial officer’s spouse, child, parent, or any blood relative of the judicial officer or the judicial officer’s spouse who lives in the same residence as the judicial officer.

The goal of this legislation is to ensure that federal judicial officers are able to administer justice fairly without fear of personal reprisal from individuals affected by decisions made in the course of carrying out their professional duties. The purposes of the legislation are to remove and/or limit access to JPII from publicly displayed records, as well as to prohibit any person, business, association, or agency from posting, displaying, selling, sharing, transferring, or trading JPII with others. Federal privacy legislation shall not be construed to impair free access to decisions and opinions expressed by judicial officers in the course of carrying out their public duties.
The judiciary recommends enactment of federal legislation that incorporates the following:

1. PROTECTION OF FEDERAL JUDICIAL OFFICERS including the Chief Justice of the United States; the Associate Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States; judges of the United States courts of appeals; district judges and magistrate judges of the United States district courts, including the district courts in Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the Virgin Islands; judges of the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, Court of International Trade, United States Bankruptcy courts, United States Court of Federal Claims, and any court created by Act of Congress, the judges of which are entitled to hold office during good behavior. The legislation shall extend to any individual identified above, whether in active, senior, recalled, or retired status, as well as any individual whose nomination to a position listed above has been transmitted by the President of the United States to the United States Senate and whose nomination remains pending before the United States Senate.

2. PROTECTION OF PERSONALLY IDENTIFIABLE INFORMATION of judicial officers and their immediate family members, to include but not be limited to the primary home address; date of birth; social security number; driver’s license number; voter registration information that includes a home address; bank account and credit or debit card information; property tax records and any property ownership records, including a secondary residence and any investment property; birth and marriage records; marital status; personal email addresses; home or mobile phone number; vehicle registration information; family member’s employer, daycare, or school; personal photographs or photographs of a judicial officer’s home; religious, organization, club, or association memberships; identification of children under the age of 18; and any other unique biometric data or piece of information that can be used to identify an individual.

3. PROHIBITION OF PUBLIC DISTRIBUTION OF JPII BY ANY FEDERAL GOVERNMENT AGENCY. Federal government agencies shall have an affirmative duty to prevent the public disclosure of JPII, and upon written request shall remove restricted JPII from internet sites or publicly accessible federal government databases within 48-72 hours of the request.

4. MANDATORY REMOVAL OR REDACTION OF JPII UPON WRITTEN REQUEST SERVED ON ANY PERSON, BUSINESS, ASSOCIATION, OR AGENCY. Upon written request, a person, business, association or agency must, within 48-72 hours of receipt of the request, redact from the public record any existing JPII and may not thereafter knowingly post, display, sell, share, trade or transfer JPII, including publicly accessible and displayed content. No person, business or association shall solicit JPII with intent to do harm to a judicial officer or immediate family member. The written request by a judicial officer, or his or her representative, to remove and/or to redact from the public record JPII of the judicial officer or an immediate family member shall not require a showing of fear of harm or immediate threat and shall remain effective until revocation of the request by the judicial officer or a surviving immediate family member.

5. ENFORCEMENT/REMEDIES shall include a private right of action (including injunctive or declaratory relief), civil enforcement authority by an appropriate federal department or regulatory agency, and limited criminal enforcement authority.

6. PREEMPTION OF STATE LAWS. Federal legislation must mandate and/or provide incentives for the protection of JPII held at the state/county/local level – at a minimum including motor vehicle registration and driver’s license information; real estate transaction and property tax records; and voter registration information that includes a home address. Restricted JPII of federal judicial officers and immediate family members must be exempt from state public information laws. Federal legislation might include grant programs to assist states in complying with these provisions.

Permanent Authority to Redact Sensitive Security Information from Judicial Financial Disclosure Reports



Section 105(b)(3) of the Ethics in Government Act of 1978 (5 U.S.C. App.) is amended by striking subparagraph (E).


• The Judicial Conference of the United States seeks legislation to eliminate the sunset provision in 5 U.S.C. app. § 105(b)(3)(E), which grants the Judicial Conference authority to redact financial disclosure reports.

• The need to provide permanent redaction authority is a sensitive security matter. A lapse in redaction authority, which has occurred in the past, creates significant security risks to judges and judiciary employees. Federal judges and judiciary employees, like probation officers, routinely interact with disgruntled litigants and convicted criminals who may bear grudges against them. Without redaction authority, these individuals will be able to learn sensitive information such as the unsecured locations of judges, employees, and their families. Redaction of this sensitive information protects these public servants and their families from harm.

• Judges and certain judicial employees are required to file financial disclosure reports under the Ethics in Government Act of 1978, as amended. Congress has recognized judges and judicial employees have been the subject of assault, threats and harassment. Accordingly, Congress enacted legislation that grants the Judiciary the authority to redact certain statutorily required information in a financial disclosure report in limited instances when the release of the information could endanger a judicial officer or employee or his or her family (The Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act of 1998, Section 7, P.L. 105-318, October 30, 1998.) We thank the Congress for their past support of this critical safeguard.

• Congress has extended the authority to redact six times since 1998. In 2012, Congress passed an extension of the sunset provision through December 31, 2017. Unfortunately, the redaction authority expired on January 1, 2018 because Congress did not take final action on eliminating the sunset provision or renewing the authority. It wasn’t until March 23, 2018, upon enactment of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018 that redaction authority was again extended to December 31, 2027.

• Congress previously has indicated support for legislation to make this authority permanent. As noted in House Report 115-332, the House has consistently supported permanent reauthorization of redaction authority. The House passed permanent redaction authority in 2011 by a vote of 384-0. In October 2017, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs favorably reported to the Senate S. 1584 which provided for permanent redaction authority (see Senate Report 115-172.)

• The Judicial Conference uses its redaction authority carefully and reasonably. Each year a very small percentage of the financial disclosure reports filed contain an approved redaction of some information in the report. In 2019, 4,379 individuals employed in the judicial branch were required to file a financial report and 155 filers, or just 3.5 per cent, requested redaction. Of those, 150 requests were granted in full or in part. Of the 34,612 reports released to the public, only 1,970 contained partial redactions. Although only a small percentage of reports released to the public are approved for any redactions, the written application to examine a financial disclosure report and the ability to withhold sensitive information remain important protections for the judicial officers and employees who are most at risk for facing serious threats and inappropriate communications.


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Editors Choice

Judges Want to Throw You In Jail if You Share Any Personal Information About Them

And the reason the Judiciary want this is so that blogs like LIT and LIF are unable to share the corruption within the third branch of government.



Judges propose making disclosure of their personal details a crime

The request to Congress raises serious First Amendment and transparency concerns, critics said.

SEP 24, 2020 | REPUBLISHED BY LIT: JUN 20, 2021

Judges are public officials, not God. We The People cannot allow this request to be pushed through Congress – if you value democracy and a hint of a fair trial in courts in this country.

Judges are not forced into these positions, they choose to be in the profession and they are supposed to follow the rule of law, the U.S. Constitution, which includes the First Amendment. In short, Judges should not receive any preferential security not available to a citizen of the United States of America.

Judge Amy Coney Barrett, a top contender on President Donald Trump’s short list for the Supreme Court, has drawn widespread media attention for her reported membership in People of Praise, a largely Catholic, charismatic religious group.

Another shortlister, Judge Barbara Lagoa, is a longtime member of the Federalist Society, a conservative legal group. Her husband, Paul Huck, is an attorney at Jones Day, a law firm with close ties to the White House and throughout the Trump administration.

Those details — readily found in numerous news stories about the potential SCOTUS nominees — could become illegal for media outlets or anyone else to publish on the internet under a proposal federal judges sent to Congress earlier this month.

Under the suggested legislation, lawmakers would grant judges extraordinary latitude to decide what personal information to exclude from the public eye.

Critics say the effort — framed as an attempt to protect the physical safety of judges and their families — is on a collision course with the First Amendment.

It could also complicate efforts to vet judicial nominees and to assess their conflicts of interest after taking the bench, lawyers say.

The new push to lock down a broad swath of personal information about judges was prompted by a tragic incident in July, in which the son and husband of a New Jersey-based U.S. District Court judge were shot at the doorway of her home — apparently by a deranged attorney who may have been angry over the slow pace of a suit he’d brought challenging the exclusion of women from draft registration.

Federal judges handling high-profile cases in Washington have also experienced threats. Last month, a Long Island, New York man was indicted for leaving a voice mail message containing a vivid threat to kill U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan, who has been handling the politically contentious prosecution of former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. The caller also threatened “cutting down” Sullivan’s staff.

On Sept. 4, a group representing federal judges — the executive committee of the Judicial Conference — sent congressional leaders an urgent request seeking “immediate legislative action” to head off future violence and stem a rising tide of threats against judges and their families.

“We are seeking legislation to enhance protection and prevention of unauthorized release of judges’ and immediate family [personal information] particularly on the internet,”

U.S. District Court Judge Claire Eagan told reporters last week following a virtual meeting of the Judicial Conference.

“There is so much talk about cases and about judges, on the internet, that contains personal information.”

Eagan also said the courts are also looking to set up a system to “monitor proactively” personal information and threats to them online and elsewhere.

The letter sent to House and Senate Judiciary Committee leaders did not contain specific legislative language, but did offer a non-exclusive laundry list of information judges want authority to suppress.

It includes judges’ home addresses, dates of birth, Social Security numbers, driver’s license numbers, bank account details, home and mobile phone numbers and vehicle registrations.

However, the list also covers details on judges’ “investment property,” any “family member’s employer,” and “religious, organization, club, or association memberships.”

The proposal urges Congress to create a legally mandatory takedown mechanism that would give anyone 48-72 hours to remove such details “from the public record” if a judge requests their deletion.

The Judicial Conference asked lawmakers to give judges and the government the right to sue to force compliance. The proposal also called for “limited criminal enforcement authority.”

“We’re asking that the legislation require that when a written request by a judge or his or her representative is submitted, this will result in a mandatory redaction or removal of the personal information,” Eagan said.

By its terms, the proposal would apply not only to sitting and retired judges, but to all judicial nominees as long as their nominations are pending before the Senate.

Advocates for court transparency called the proposal a dramatic overreach by the judiciary.

“What they’re saying is the First Amendment doesn’t apply to judges, which is just awful,”

said Gabe Roth of Fix the Court, which advocates for openness at court proceedings and on details about judges’ financial ties.

“Obviously, I’m very sympathetic to the concerns about attacks on public officials, especially judges, [but] I can’t imagine that any lawmaker would take this seriously.”

Legal experts also expressed doubt about whether the provision would meet First Amendment standards, despite the fact that it originated with a panel of federal judges.

“My hope is this is going to get tightened up,”

said University of California at Los Angeles law professor Eugene Volokh.

“It would need to be narrowed considerably in order to survive a challenge under the First Amendment.”

Volokh said that while some of the information would almost never be of public concern, a number of the items on the judicial list could be relevant to whether a judge is being fair or has the appearance of doing so.

“People need to be able to talk about whether a judge needs to recuse due to some conflict of interest,” Volokh added. “These are perfectly legitimate things for people to talk about.”

However, the plan to protect judges’ personal information has one extraordinarily impassioned and powerful voice backing it:

Esther Salas, the New Jersey judge who recently lost her son and saw her husband wounded.

“I am asking everyone to help me ensure that no one ever has to experience this kind of pain,”

she said in an emotional video statement released last month.

“We may not be able to stop something like this from happening again, but we can make it hard for those who target us to track us down.”

“The free flow of information from the internet allowed this sick an depraved human being to find all our personal information and target us,”

the judge declared.

“In my case, the monster knew where I lived and what church we attended and had a complete dossier on me and my family. At the moment, there is nothing we can do to stop it and that is unacceptable.”

The plan the judiciary has offered would appear to give judges greater protection for their personal details than executive branch officials or lawmakers currently receive.

A federal law passed in 2008 makes it a crime to disclose a narrower set of personal information about federal officials, including lawmakers and judges.

It covers only the sharing of a Social Security number, home address, home or mobile phone number, personal email or home fax number.

In addition, under current law, disclosure is only a crime if the release is part of an effort to threaten, intimidate or incite a crime of violence against an official or his or her family.

The statute was used in 2018 to prosecute a former Democratic Senate staffer who released several GOP senators’ home addresses and phone numbers online out of anger at their handling of the confirmation hearings for Brett Kavanaugh.

The judicial proposal seeks to drop the intent requirement and significantly expand the scope of what’s deemed personal information.

Some experts said the nature of the internet does call for placing greater limits on the kind of personal information the public can access about judges and other officials.

“This makes sense to me—to limit the amount of personally identifiable information for both executive branch officials and judicial officials that is available both on the internet and to eight billion people around the world,”

said former State Department legal adviser John Bellinger.

“It shouldn’t just be put up on the internet for anyone to see.”

Bellinger was a vocal opponent of a law Congress passed in 2012 that would have automatically posted many federal employee financial disclosures and investment transactions online.

The law was aimed at cracking down on insider trading, but it drew an outcry from employees across the government who said they feared identity theft, financial scams and even targeting by hostile foreign intelligence agencies.

President Barack Obama signed a repeal of many of the requirements the following year.

The Senate Judiciary Committee routinely asks judicial nominees to list all associations and clubs they belong to and to detail whether any of them discriminate on the basis of race, sex, religion or national origin.

Under the new proposal, those answers could also be put off limits by a judge as personal information. Even if the questions were asked, the answers could be scrubbed before a questionnaire is made public.

Bellinger said criticism of some items on the list judges want to protect sounded “fair” and added he would oppose language that allowed judges to prevent disclosure of their membership in professional groups.

“You shouldn’t be able to hide something like that,” the attorney said. “I don’t know quite how you strike the balance. … The balance has to be struck in a different place in 2020 than it was struck maybe 50 years ago.”

The judiciary has struggled to find that balance in the internet era. In 1999, the crime news site sued the court system after it refused to comply with the site’s request for financial disclosures on every federal judge.

A judicial committee said it feared that posting the information on the internet could expose judges to harm, but Chief Justice William Rehnquist and the broader Judicial Conference eventually reversed that position and released the records.

The lawyer who brought the suit two decades ago, Mark Zaid, said he’s sympathetic to Salas’ concerns and those of other judges. Earlier this year, a Michigan man was indicted for threatening to kill Zaid, apparently over his role representing a key figure in the Trump impeachment saga.

However, Zaid said trying to suppress websites with information about judges seems misguided.

“It’s tricky and difficult and I’m not sure this is the right way to go about it,” said Zaid, who often represents journalists, including from POLITICO.

“We should be careful in the wake of tragedy not to go too far in terms of trying to do the right thing.”

Even some parts of the new proposal unlikely to draw much objection, like protecting details about judges’ and nominees’ minor children, could be tricky to enforce.

Children and family members of nominees have often been introduced by them at confirmation hearings that are open to the public and streamed on the internet, but under the proposal that, too, could be subject to a takedown order and might even be stricken from official transcripts of the event.

Judges’ children might sometimes be legitimate subjects of news coverage, Volokh said.

“You hear stories sometimes that a judge’s child was involved in some crime and then the charges are dropped and then the question is asked: Did he get a sweetheart deal? It’s very hard to talk about that without any identification of the child,” the professor said.

The judiciary is also seeking $524 million to improve security systems at judges’ homes, upgrade video surveillance at courthouses and add 1,000 new deputy marshals.

Spokespeople for House and Senate Judiciary Committee leaders did not respond to requests for comment on the judges’ proposal.

A spokesman for the federal courts, David Sellers, stressed to POLITICO Wednesday that the letter presented an initial round of suggestions and no formal legislative language. He also insisted there is no intent to limit legitimate debate about judicial nominees or court rulings.

“This is very early in the conversation,” Sellers said.

“These are broad principles that are the beginning of a conversation with our Congressional contacts. … Nobody’s goal is to limit transparency that’s needed in assessing judicial nominations or judges in any other capacity. It’s to safeguard the personal data that often is associated with it.”


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