Judge declines to temporarily block Daniel’s Law

Law bars disclosure of addresses of judges, police officials

By: - August 30, 2023 5:17 pm

New Brunswick officials have threatened a local journalist with civil and criminal penalties under Daniel's Law if he publishes the address of a city official. (Getty Images)

A Superior Court judge declined to impose temporary limits Wednesday on a state law that bars the disclosure of addresses belonging to judges, prosecutors, and law enforcement officials.

Charlie Kratovil, the editor of the local newspaper New Brunswick Today, had sought a temporary injunction against Daniel’s Law, the statute that shields those addresses from the public. Kratovil alleges local authorities have violated free speech protections in the state constitution by threatening him with civil and criminal penalties if he publishes the address of a New Brunswick official.

Alexander Shalom, the senior supervising American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey attorney who is representing Kratovil, said he was disappointed with Wednesday’s ruling.

“We filed this case in the middle of July trying to get immediate relief on behalf of a journalist whose constitutional rights are being violated, and New Jersey courts have a mechanism for that immediate relief to be provided,” he said. “We think we were entitled to it here.”

Kratovil in July informed 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 the city, and provided them with a copy of his voter registration records, which were obtained through a request under the Open Public Records Act.

Authorities sent Kratovil a cease-and-desist letter that warned he could face criminal charges under Daniel’s Law if he publishes Caputo’s address. At the city council meeting, Kratovil named the street Caputo lives on, and the documents he provided to the council contained the police director’s specific address.

Judge Joseph Rea during a hearing Wednesday declined to enjoin the law, finding a preliminary injunction would be tantamount to a final decision because Caputo’s address, once published, could not be withdrawn. He did not issue a ruling on Kratovil’s request but delayed proceedings in the case until September.

“I can’t separate the interlocutory relief and the final relief. They’re really the same,” Rea said.

Caputo’s address is readily available online and was obtained by the New Jersey Monitor after a cursory Google search.

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

Court rules bar final decisions in cases challenging legislation until the Attorney General’s Office decides whether to intervene. Court rules provide it 60 days to do so, and in this case the office must decide by Sept. 11.

Deputy Attorney General Nicole Adams on Wednesday told the judge her office has not yet decided whether it will intervene.

Kratovil sued New Brunswick in early July but the case was delayed for more than a month before being moved to a new judge. Arguments won’t be heard until Sept. 21 because of scheduling conflicts.

Judge Alberto Rivas, to whom the case was originally assigned, twice delayed proceedings scheduled earlier in August before recusing himself from the case, citing a personal relationship with U.S. District Court Judge Esther Salas, who advocated for the law’s passage. A 2020 attack at Salas’ home that left her son, Daniel, dead and her husband in critical condition was the inspiration for Daniel’s Law.

The County Prosecutors Association of New Jersey and a host of police unions, including, among others, the State Troopers Fraternal Association and the New Jersey State Association of Chiefs of Police, have joined the case as friends of the court.

They argue the restrictions on speech imposed by Daniel’s Law are narrowly tailored enough to pass constitutional muster and charge the protections are needed amid a rise in threats to judges and law enforcement officials.

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Nikita Biryukov
Nikita Biryukov

Nikita Biryukov most recently covered state government and politics for the New Jersey Globe. His tenure there included revelatory stories on marijuana legalization, voting reform and Rep. Jeff Van Drew's decamp to the Republican Party. Earlier, he worked as a freelancer for The Home News Tribune and The Press of Atlantic City.