ACLU-PA Position: Opposes
HB 1700 would amend 18 Pa.C.S. § 2719 (endangering a public official) to make this offense applicable to federal judicial officers. But federal judicial officers, as defined under HB 1700, are already protected under several offenses in the U.S. Code. Of course, Pennsylvania judges “of any court in the unified judicial system” and magisterial district judges are currently covered as protected employees under the aggravated assault and endangering a public official statutes. By adding federal officials to Pennsylvania statute, HB 1700 would mark a significant departure under state law. If enacted, the bill would open the door to protecting any kind of federal employee under PA statute, which is unnecessary and duplicative considering those individuals are currently protected under federal law.
Additionally, under the dual sovereignty doctrine, HB 1700 would enable prosecution of the same conduct under both state and federal law.
There is no question that judges at every level are experiencing increased threats and dangers to their lives. But HB 1700 will do nothing to protect judges and their family members from those threats. Both state and federal law refer to these offenses as “protections,” when, in fact, they only offer punishment imposed after a public official has been threatened or injured. Furthermore, if federal judges believe that the current penalties against their alleged assailants are too low, those changes should be made through congressional legislation.
Duplicating protections for federal judges under state law will only lead to excessive punishment and even more unnecessary and duplicative laws.
Check the bill's status here.