By Deena Winter | Nebraska Watchdog
LINCOLN, Neb. — A Nebraska federal judge is making headlines again, this time for writing on his blog that the U.S. Supreme Court should have “STFU” rather than weigh in on the Hobby Lobby case.
Senior U.S. District Judge Richard Kopf wrote on his blog Saturday that in its next term, the Supreme Court should “go quiescent” because it has “proven that the court is now causing more harm (division) to our democracy than good by deciding hot button cases that the Court has the power to avoid.”
“As the kids say, it is time for the Court to stfu,” he wrote, linking to the Urban Dictionary definition of that acronym, which is “shut the f*** up.”
Kopf, who was appointed to the bench in 1992 by President George H.W. Bush, has taken heat for telling Congress to go to hell and saying young female lawyers shouldn’t dress too suggestively.
In October, he urged his fellow judges to declare all of their employees “essential” so they could continue working during the federal government shutdown. And in March, he followed up with a blog advising young female judges not to dress too slutty, or risk being called ignorant sluts — admitting he was a “dirty old man” except when it comes to his daughters and other young women he “deeply” cares about. He later apologized to anyone who thought the post was “harmful to the image of the federal judiciary and truly treated women as objects.”
Kopf also generated headlines in 2004 when he struck down a ban on partial-birth abortions, and in 2007 when he dismissed a lawsuit against a state judge who barred the words “rape” and “victim” in court.
In his Hobby Lobby blog, Kopf blasted the highest court in the land for deciding a “huge corporation” with “thousands of employees and gargantuan revenues” was a “person” entitled to have a religious objection to the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate because it is a corporation “closely held” by family members.
“To the average person, the result looks stupid and smells worse,” he wrote, noting the majority decision was made by five males, all Catholic and all appointees of Republican presidents.
“To most people, the decision looks stupid ’cause corporations are not persons, all the legal mumbo jumbo notwithstanding. The decision looks misogynist because the majority were all men. It looks partisan because all were appointed by a Republican. The decision looks religiously motivated because each member of the majority belongs to the Catholic church, and that religious organization is opposed to contraception,” he wrote.
Kopf said the court should avoid weighing in on highly controversial cases if it can.
“What would have happened if the Supreme Court simply decided not to take the Hobby Lobby cases?” he asked. “What harm would have befallen the nation? What harm would have befallen Hobby Lobby family members who would have been free to express their religious beliefs as real persons?”
He said no harm would have come if the court had stayed on the sidelines and let one of the political branches work something out.
Kopf began writing the blog in early 2013 in what he called a year-long experiment that would end in January, but he seems to have writer’s bug and just can’t quit. The blog has featured everything from pictures of his grandkids to opinions about pot legalization and the anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church.
The judge is battling Hodgkin’s lymphoma and last month declared a mistrial after a week of testimony because he was hospitalized with complications from treatment. He said he would take a break from blogging, but soon he was back at it.
But after his latest Hobby Lobby post began going viral late Monday, Kopf posted a letter on his blog from a Nebraska lawyer who urged him to quit blogging because he’s “doing more harm than good” and eroding the public’s faith in the judicial system.
“There is little surprise in the level of attention drawn by, or the inevitable public reaction to, a federal trial judge, in a public forum, repeatedly using vulgarity including serial exercise of the f-word, apparently disclosing a fondness for looking up the skirts and down the blouses of female attorneys who appear before him, telling Congress to go to hell, and urging the SCOTUS to stfu,” the letter said.
The letter-writer, who was not named by Kopf, said most lawyers disagree with the judge’s assertion that his blog does more good than harm, saying, “those I have talked to about your blog unanimously are of the opinion that you should make good on your earlier decision to stop.”
Kopf wrote that he’s seriously considering the lawyer’s advice to stop blogging, saying, “blogging will be light while I figure this out.”
Kopf’s brassy blog raises the question of whether he’s violating the code of conduct for U.S. judges, which says they should “avoid all impropriety and appearance of impropriety” in both their professional and personal conduct.
“A judge must expect to be the subject of constant public scrutiny and accept freely and willingly restrictions that might be viewed as burdensome by the ordinary citizen,” the code says.
The code also prohibits judges from engaging in political activity. However, Kopf moved to “senior status” in late 2011, meaning he is semi-retired, working part-time, so Kopf may fall under an exception in the code of conduct for part-time judges.
In January, he told the Lincoln Journal Star a thoughtful judge has about the same chance of violating the code of conduct writing a blog post as they would when writing a book, giving a speech or writing a law review article.
Nebraska Watchdog tried to reach Kopf for comment, but his secretary said it’s his policy not to comment on his blog.
Editor’s note: to subscribe to News Updates from Nebraska Watchdog at no cost, click here.