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Senate bill looks to protect Missouri judges’ private information

by Jamie Holcomb | January 25, 2023 at 4:01 a.m.

The Missouri Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday discussed the Judicial Privacy Act, which would make it a class D felony to post private information about judges online.

Two Missouri judges spoke to the committee about their experiences with doxxing, including receiving death threats on their cell phones and having protesters show up at their home.

Judge Dale Youngs, speaking in support of the bill sponsored by Sen. Curtis Trent, R-Springfield, addressed potential opposition to the bill while reiterating its importance.

"While there are arguments to be made in my situation, as such protests enjoy some level of First Amendment protection, we have seen in recent years how dangerous it can be when certain people with an axe to grind with a particular judge have access to that judge's personal information," Youngs said.

All witnesses who spoke during the committee meeting favored the legislation, citing the importance of protecting the judiciary from threats.

"We need to take steps to make sure that there's no judicial intimidation that occurs ... and that judges are able to do their job without having any fear for themselves or fear for their safety of their families," Trent said.

Senate Bill 72 mirrors federal legislation passed last year that protects federal judges from having their personal information leaked. The bill aims to protect not only judges in Missouri but includes language that would protect direct family members as well.

This legislation is similar to previous bills that would have made it a class E felony or a class A misdemeanor to post private information of law enforcement officers, prosecutors and their immediate families. Neither of these bills has become law.

By declaring the release of private judicial information a felony, the bill ensures that if a person is convicted, it will remain on their permanent criminal record, and they would be required to disclose their status as a felon on job and housing applications. It would also deny them the right to vote or run for public office.

The work of the Missouri News Network is written by Missouri School of Journalism students and editors for publication by Missouri Press Association member newspapers.

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