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Judge declines to limit Daniel’s Law for reporters


Judge declines to limit Daniel’s Law for reporters

Sep 21, 2023 | 6:34 pm ET
By Nikita Biryukov
Judge declines to limit Daniel’s Law for reporters
Judge Joseph Rea declined to find the law shielding judges' and law enforcement officials' addresses violated free speech protections. (Getty Images)

A trial court judge on Thursday declined to impose limits on a state law criminalizing the release of addresses belonging to judges and some law enforcement officials and also declined to bar criminal charges for a reporter battling with New Brunswick officials over a top official’s residency.

Charlie Kratovil, editor of the local newspaper New Brunswick Today, had sought a narrow injunction against the statute — known as Daniel’s Law — saying local officials who threatened civil and criminal penalties under the law violated his freedom of speech. The officials have sought to bar Kratovil from publishing the address of the city’s police director.

But Superior Court Judge Joseph Rea sided with New Brunswick officials and declined to declare Daniel’s Law unconstitutional as it relates to Kratovil’s attempt to publish the police director’s address.

Kratovil’s attorneys have already appealed the decision.

“We were disappointed with what happened in the trial court today, but we are eager to get to the appellate courts, where we anticipate they’ll understand the importance of this issue for a free press and will come out in favor of Mr. Kratovil,” said Alexander Shalom, Kratovil’s lawyer and the senior supervising attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey.

Daniel’s Law is named after a federal judge’s son, who was gunned down at the judge’s home in 2020.

Rea found the law, which criminalizes the release of addresses belonging to judges, prosecutors, and law enforcement officers, is narrowly tailored enough to pass constitutional muster.

“The judge said the health and safety of law enforcement officials and their families is a compelling state interest and said, specifically, he could hardly imagine a more compelling state interest than protecting the people who serve and protect us,” said Vito Gagliardi, who represented the State Association of Chiefs of Police, which joined the case as a friend of the court.

Kratovil in July told the New Brunswick City Council that Police Director Anthony Caputo, who is also vice chair of the city’s parking authority, lives in Cape May County, more than two hours away from New Brunswick.

Kratovil did not publish Caputo’s address, though he named his street of residence and provided council members with a copy of Caputo’s voter registration records, which contained his address, obtained under the Open Public Records Act.

The city sent Kratovil a cease-and-desist letter that warned he could face criminal charges if he published the police director’s address.

Daniel’s Law is bad for N.J. journalists — and everyone who wants government accountability