Free Speech

N.J. Law Forbids Naming a Judge's, Prosecutor's, or Police Officer's Close Relatives Online,

whenever the judge, prosecutor, or police officer demands that the relative's name be taken down.


A New Jersey statute (enacted last Fall) limits publishing judges', prosecutors', and law enforcement officers' home addresses; it makes it

  • a crime to publish them if the publisher recklessly disregards the risk that it will "expose another to harassment or risk of harm to life or property,"
  • civilly actionable if the publisher is negligent about it, and
  • categorically forbidden regardless of the publisher's mental state if the judge has specifically instructed the publisher to remove it.

That itself poses interesting First Amendment problems, given that marching past a person's home as a protest seems to be constitutionally protected, see Frisby v. Schultz, and in many places even targeted residential picketing is legal; how can one organize such legally permissible events if one can't find out and the communicate the address involved? And the law may also raise an interesting R.A.V. v. City of St. Paul question, given that it singles out speech about these government officials and doesn't provide similar protection to other people who may reasonably worry about harassment or attack.

But I'm especially interested in another provision of the statute (breaks added):

Any … judicial officer … or prosecutor [or, subject to some limitations, law enforcement officer] …

whose immediate family member's [i.e., spouse's, parent's, or child's] name … is disclosed on the Internet, or re-disclosed or otherwise made available, …

[and] may be used, alone or in conjunction with any other information, to identify the person as the family member of a judicial officer or prosecutor [or law enforcement officer],

may request that the person, business, or association that disclosed, re-disclosed, or otherwise made available that information refrain from that action

and remove the information ….

Upon receipt of a written request to refrain and remove information, the person, business, or association that disclosed, re-disclosed, or otherwise made available the information shall have 72 hours to remove that information from the Internet or where otherwise made available, and shall not disclose, re-disclose, or otherwise make available that information to any other person, business, or association through any medium.

[If the material is] not timely removed … within 72 hours [or the poster] re-discloses [it] … at any time subsequent to receipt of the written request, [the judge, prosecutor, or law enforcement officer] may bring an action seeking injunctive or declaratory relief in the Superior Court. If the court grants injunctive or declaratory relief, the person, business, or association responsible for the violation shall be required to pay reasonable attorney's fees and other litigation costs ….

This would, among other things, require removing any items that mention a family member's name when discussing

  1. how the professional or political actions of a judge's spouse, parent, or child can create a possibility of bias for the judge,
  2. whether there might have been nepotism in a judge's, prosecutor's, or police officer's family member being hired by a government agency,
  3. whether the treatment of a judge's, prosecutor's, or police officer's family member who had been accused of a crime might have been influenced by the connection, and more.

It would extend to all sorts of commentary, whether blog posts, newspaper articles, or anything else. And it would apply regardless of whether there's evidence that mention of the family member's name creates a serious risk of violence against the family member. I sympathize with the concern that prompted the law (and in particular the murder of U.S. District Judge Esther Salas' son), but I can't see how this would be constitutional.

Thanks to Keith Kaplan for the pointer.

NEXT: Today in Supreme Court History: February 16, 1833

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. So, in terms of doxing, some animals are more equal than others?

    1. Brett…stop it. That is WrongThink!

    2. Bingo. Revealing anyone’s home address, much less demonstrating there, is not legitimate free speech, it is a threat of the form “We know where you live.” The law needs to make that private information, illegal for anyone but the resident to disclose to anyone else; and needs to forbid any demonstrations near someone’s home, backed by a right of physical enforcement. If this requires constitutional change then let’s make it happen.

      1. Aren’t phone books still a thing?

        Reverse look ups?

        1. Doxing isn’t so much a matter of making it possible to find someone, as it is identifying somebody as the person to be found. The act of doxing doesn’t just identify where you live, it identifies you to the mob as the target du jour.

          It’s the difference between handing out a map, and saying, “Here. Drop the bomb here.”

          1. it identifies you to the mob as the target du jour.

            It’s the difference between handing out a map, and saying, “Here. Drop the bomb here.”

            Kind of like when the president says that you need to go to the Capitol and fight like hell to keep them from stealing the election or you won’t have a country anymore. Drop the bomb here!

            1. Mutatis mutandis, Trump’s wrongfulness does not exxonerate the doxxers.

              1. No, but it does suggest that the sycophants desperately trying to con themselves and the rest of us into believing Trump did nothing wrong may not be entirely serious people.

                1. “Look at these inkblots and tell me what you see.”

                  “That’s Trump raping the Constitution…that’s Trump putting kids in cages…that’s Trump dressed as a Nazi…”

                  “I see you have an obsession with Donald Trump.”

                  “*Me* obsessed? *You’re* the one with all the political cartoons!”

                2. Were you previously under the impression they were entirely serious people?

        2. Real Estate Property Records…..

        3. You could opt out of being listed in the phone book. Phone companies used to charge for not-performing that service.

  2. “I can’t see how this would be constitutional.”

    You did say New Jersey, right? Isn’t their state motto something about the supremacy of the state over the individual?

    1. Actually, our state motto is a line from an early Springsteen song, “do what you like, but don’t do it here.”

  3. The constitution does not apply in NJ.

  4. As a resident of the People’s Republic of NJ, this legislation comes as no surprise whatsoever. We used to have 1A, 2A, 4A and 5A rights. No longer. We used to have marginally competent leaders. No longer. The People’s Republic of NJ is a cesspool of moral and civic corruption.

    We truly deserve the representation we elect.

    1. When your top lawyer is a non-white, this is what you get.

      1. Thanks for your “help.”

  5. So Facebook, Twitter, Intstagram, et al now have to cancel(kick off) the spouses, kids, and parents of every judge, prosecutor and cop in New Jersey? Since it would be a felony if those persons mentioned themselves, or any of their family members.

    1. That’s the issue. I don’t see how this legislation is anywhere near workable without giving almost total discretionary power to the DA. It would be trivial to apply this to punish the families of political opposition. It’s begging to be abused.

    2. That’s not even the half of it. It’s not limited to the internet. No one can “otherwise ma{k}e available” a family member’s name if that name “may be used, alone or in conjunction with any other information, to identify the person as the family member of a judicial officer or prosecutor.” The phrase, “any other information,” is not defined or limited. Since it is always true that there is “other information” that can theoretically link a family member’s name to a judicial officer or prosecutor, any means of making that person’s name “available” can be targeted – including me simply introducing that person to you.

  6. Why not vastly increase penalties for throwing bottles, shit, spitting, or making serious threats, getting in the way of cars leaving, and so on. These aren’t protests in the first amendment sense. These are intimidation attempts. So boost penalties for illegal activities.

    1. You just don’t understand, Krayt. Those activities you mention? No, those are not intimidation attempts. They are just the legitimate expressions of the unheard oppressed masses in the People’s Republic.

      That is what they say in Trenton. It is a damned disgrace. We deserve what we have elected.

    2. In practice, those penalties are selectively enforced and/or paid by the protesters’ sponsors.

  7. It’s almost like they are an army of occupation instead of public servants.

  8. I am unable to describe those who support and arranged this statute properly, because of this blog’s expressly identified and repeatedly enforced censorship practices, but I contend they are

    1) lousy people


    2) provide succor


    3) police officers (also know as cops).

    I hope that formulation complied with the Volokh Conspiracy’s (ostensible) civility standards.

    1. Artie. I have not been censored since the Washington Post days. I complained to A vice president restored my privileges. Can you calm down about being censored here?

      1. When the Volokh Conspiracy diminishes its partisan hypocrisy concerning expression and censorship, I will have no reasons to mention that hypocrisy and censorship.

        No apology . . . no remorse . . . no free swings.

    2. I contend you are correct about the Progressive Politicians shoving “Progress” down our throats.

    3. Be careful Arthur. I’m certain that there’s some kind of rule that says that, if you hassle someone over stuff that happened years ago as often as you do with Prof. Volokh, after a while you become his common-law wife.

  9. I do not understand the privileged status of these lawyers and of their agents, the police. Why is it OK to publish other people’s addresses, and not theirs?

    1. In another VC thread, we heard perpetual claims by captcrisis that Trump could not be prosecuted because jurors would be doxed for execution. So this issue is not just about cops.
      Having said that, I related that when my uncle was prosecuting mafiosi he and his family had 24 hr police protection for months because they knew where he lived.
      The matter is due to realistic concerns, especially in the Republic of NJ.

      1. The judge who ordered busing in Boston in the 1970s had guards around his house.

        In Massachusetts the online registry of deeds will usually tell you who owns a house. Look for a house owned by a judge and somebody else. There’s your probably family member. It isn’t foolproof. Sometimes VIPs can have the information censored online and you have to go to City Hall to get it. Well off people often live in houses owned by trusts or LLCs. But on the other hand the companies that buy and sell our personal data already make the connections between family members, and that information is for sale. I know if you search government databases you risk setting off alarms. (Some State Department employees got fired for snooping on Senator Obama.) Do commercial databases allow VIPs to seal off their information?

        1. In Washington state, I believe, a case went to the SC demanding a list of signatories to a successful unfavored ballot proposal. The admitted reason was to harrass the signers.

          The SC approved the release, because The People need to have confidence in the ballot signature approval process, but expressed concern over it.

          Well, after thousands of years, the social ostracism hammer is on the other foot.

          1. Same in Massachusetts, something related to same sex marriage.

      2. What do you find objectionable about New Jersey?

        Too many graduate degrees, Blacks, libraries, Muslims, college graduates, Asians, BMWs, professional women, modern communities?

        Not enough militias, nonsense-teaching schools, country music stations, homeschoolers, segregated proms, NASCAR fans, Klan rallies, rattlesnake-jugglers?

        1. Nope, RAK. Your brain is stuck in the same rut.

        2. Arthur….There are many things highly objectionable about the People’s Republic of NJ. I shall list just a few below.

          The People’s Republic of NJ has absurdly high property taxes; and,
          The People’s Republic of NJ has high income taxes; and,
          The People’s Republic of NJ has too many illegal aliens; and,
          The People’s Republic of NJ raised double-dipping to an art form; and,
          The People’s Republic of NJ is owned by public sector unions; and,
          The People’s Republic of NJ has incompetent leadership; and,
          The People’s Republic of NJ has the highest number of toxic Superfund sites; and,
          The People’s Republic of NJ has overpaid school superintendents; and,
          The People’s Republic of NJ has shitty sports teams; and,
          The People’s Republic of NJs state bird is the mosquito!

          Do I need to go on….?

          1. You left out not be able to pump your own gasoline … although, oddly enough, pumping your own diesel fuels is OK.

            1. Well….to be honest, I appreciate not pumping my own gas when it is cold AF, or a huge rainstorm.

            2. Truck drivers and farmers are smarter and/or responsible than motorists?

        3. BMWs

          That’s part of the woke hit parade, now?

          Luxury cars as a protected class. Who knew.

  10. “- a crime to publish them if the publisher recklessly disregards the risk that it will “expose another to harassment or risk of harm to life or property,”
    ” – civilly actionable if the publisher is negligent about it, and
    ” – categorically forbidden regardless of the publisher’s mental state if the judge has specifically instructed the publisher to remove it.”

    Surely all three are true at all times of all people in the country? They certainly would be here on the other side of the big watery thing. And the first point sounds like a fairly good definition of ‘shouting fire in a crowded theatre’.

    But by far the most egregious thing here is the USian lawyerly habit of using ‘timely’ as an adverb. If you really insist on going that way, can’t you use ‘timelyly’? (The word that should be used is ‘promptly’.)

  11. So I assume this will require redacting filings and rulings of some otherwise public documents in court cases filed in NJ lest the prosecutors, defendants, and/or courts be found guilty of violating this statute.

    Since this is a NJ law, it doesn’t prevent a resident of another state from publishing the “banned” information freely. I suppose if one considers cloud providers “publishers”, this could ensure that all big tech server farms (if there are any) flee NJ. As well, information brokers such as genealogical sites and LexisNexis would presumably flee NJ if there are any such providers there. As well, when picking a place to start/expand a company that deals in public information, NJ would obviously be off the list. NJ deserves what they ask for. That’s the beauty of continuously running 50 simultaneous lab experiments in the US.

  12. I don’t think *anyone* should be stalked and harassed, whether they be in law enforcement or politics, or whether they be, say a TV host who violates some woke canons. Etc., etc.

  13. To me it seems like the statute is so limited as to be useless. You can say any information about the relative as long as you don’t say their name? “Judge V’s son–who holds position y–did x, Judge V then did z.” You can say all the substance you want without their name.

Please to post comments