By Deena Winter | Nebraska Watchdog
LINCOLN, Neb. — A mouthy federal judge in Nebraska who took heat for writing that the U.S. Supreme Court should have “STFU” rather than weigh in on the Hobby Lobby case said he will keep blogging.
Last week, Senior U.S. District Judge Richard Kopf wrote on his blog that the Supreme Court 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.”
Nebraska Watchdog and others wrote about the blog, which promptly went viral, and made national headlines. Kopf has made headlines with his blog before, by telling Congress to go to hell and saying young female lawyers shouldn’t dress too suggestively in court.
Kopf wrote Friday that after reading reaction to his blog and getting emails from lawyers telling him to stop and support from other prominent federal practitioners, state trial judges and two federal district judges, he decided to continue the blog.
“I care deeply about federal judicial transparency, I don’t see much of that and if I quit there would be even less of it and none of it from federal district judges,” he wrote. “The implicit assumption of the thoughtful lawyer who wrote me is that mystery and mythology are better for the legal profession and the judiciary than transparency, particularly when the transparency revealed is raw. I profoundly disagree.”
His Hobby Lobby blog was covered from CNN to FOX News, and prompted a variety of responses from the legal community. Some readers called for him to resign or be impeached.
Stephen Bainbridge, distinguished professor at law at the UCLA School of Law in Los Angeles, wrote that Kopf’s pointing out that five of the justices are Catholic males was “Proof once again that (thinly veiled) anti-Catholicism is the last acceptable prejudice among the elites.”
As for Kopf’s suggestion the Supreme Court stay away from “hot-button cases,” Bainbridge wrote:
“Would Judge Kopf have told the Supreme Court to shut up after Lawrence v. Texas? Roe v. Wade? Windsor v. US? Engel v. Vitale? Employment Division v. Smith? Why is it to people like this dummKopf that cases in which liberals win turn out to what Kopf calls those rare fate of the nation cases’?”
He ended his take with a parting shot others have echoed: “I’ve got a suggestion for Judge Kopf: Why don’t you STFU?”
UC Irvine law professor Rick Hasen wrote that Kopf can say whatever he wants about Supreme Court rulings in private, but not in public.
“I don’t care whether I agree with him on the merits or not of the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby and Wheaton College rulings. But I do care about this: A judge who blogs should not say ‘STFU’ to the Supreme Court,” he wrote.
“Look, this is about respect for the rule of law. Lower court judges should not use profanities to criticize the Supreme Court. Even if you disagree vehemently with the Court (as I do quite often), respect for the institution requires some level of decorum,” Hasen wrote.
Hasen said Kopf should either stop blogging or retire from the bench.
New York criminal defense lawyer Scott Greenfield had a different take, saying “no judge has offered as much insight into the mysterious world of the judiciary as Judge Kopf.”
“Judges can hide behind their robes, their benches, and we will address them as ‘your honor,’ never able to question or challenge their real thoughts,” he wrote. “Judge Kopf has single-handedly done more to restore faith in the humanity of the judiciary than any other judge in the nation.”
Kevin O’Keefe, CEO of attorney blog LexBlog agreed, writing, “Bottom line though, transparent, candid, honest, and authentic blogging is needed in the legal profession. Perhaps soften the tone at times, but bring on Judge Kopf’s style of blogging. We need it.”
Kopf’s Hobby Lobby blog generated nearly 300 spirited comments — many of them supportive. The judge vowed to continue writing frankly, but admitted, “Like the gross Sancho Panza, I have in the past, albeit inadvertently, sometimes played the earthy and profane foil to the mad knight. In so doing, I allowed myself to become a caricature rather than the teacher of transparency that I aspired to become. Truly, I will try to do better.”
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