A “shy boy”

The post regarding Shon Hopwood found its way to the New York Times in an article written by the highly regarded Adam Liptak. The article is entitled The Robber, the Judge, and the Case for Leniency. Initially, I am glad that Shon’s story of redemption is receiving attention. I am a (happily) chagrined that Shon’s story of redemption starts with my mistaken gut. But, that is not why I am writing this post.

In the article, Mr. Liptak, a wonderfully able reporter, wrote the following, “Judge Kopf, who sentenced Mr. Hopwood, also declined to talk, on the interesting theory that ‘such interviews could be seen as backhanded endorsements of the media companies’ requesting them.” (My emphasis.) I think Mr. Liptak was being kind.

When I turned down Mr. Liptak’s e-mail request for an interview, my return e-mail stated the following:


I have turned down all interview requests related to my blog which are generated by media sources that are run for profit. I have the perhaps goofy view that such interviews could be seen as backhanded endorsements of the media companies by a judge. So, with respect, I respectfully decline your kind invitation. If it makes you feel any better, I turned down the Huff Post too. (That was sardonic!)

All the best.


In his article, Mr. Liptak could have made me out to be an even bigger idiot had he decided to get (justifiably) snarky about my inarticulate reasons for telling him to pound sand.  So, I want to say: “Thanks Adam.” (I am about to pee my pants over the opportunity to call a New York Times writer by his first name!) But that’s not why I am writing this post.

So, why I am writing this post? I am writing this post because I want to make clear why I don’t and won’t do interviews with the profit-making media about this blog. My reasons are these:

* If I give one interview to a member of the commercial media, I would feel obligated to give other interviews on the same subject to other members of the for-profit media. I don’t want to take the time required to be even-handed.

* I am a control freak. I can control what I write in this blog. I can’t control what is written by someone else about what I said orally during an interview.

* Because blogging is not wide-spread among federal judges, I am aware that I am pushing ethical boundaries. It might not seem that way, but I spend a lot of time considering the ethical pitfalls to avoid when I write a post. I simply don’t want to worry about trying to figure out those same ethical boundaries when giving interviews about this blog.

* Finally, and maybe this is the best reason, my beloved Grandmother used to call me “a shy boy” and, while no longer a boy, her characterization otherwise remains accurate. The great thing about writing a blog (or a law review article or a book for that matter) is that you can hide behind the words you write without otherwise revealing yourself in an unguarded moment. That is very important to me.

Now, some of you may remember that I participated in a radio interview with two Irish lawyers. (Incidentally, it was that interview that caused me to think through the whole business of interviews.) As I earlier wrote, I believe the Irish interview was a horse of a different color.  That is because the program was on the Irish equivalent of our public radio network, it was program dedicated exclusively to legal affairs, and it was conducted solely by two Irish trial lawyers.

As I reread this post, I try to put myself in the mind of the reader. Having done that, I suspect that many readers will find this post suitable for the “who gives a shit” bin. If so, I am sorry. But, to stay with a theme developed in other posts, my “gut” tells me that I should clearly explain myself. While my “gut” sucks in some situations, I don’t think this is one of them.


An Australian boy in winter

Fletcher is my first grandson. He “belongs” to Keller and Stacey and they live in Albury, Australia.  Aubury is a couple of hours, give or take, north of Melbourne.

It is winter Down Under. I miss Fletcher and, sadly, I have only seen him once when he traveled back to the US in the summer of 2012. For now, I have to content myself with photos. Here is a beautiful one of the curly-headed little boy taken by Stacey.


Some things are more important than others.


Justice Ginsburg shows us (again) that law is not politics

I have decried the calls for Justice Ginsburg to resign and the blatantly political calculations that drive those calls. See here and here. In a rare interview with the New York Times on Sunday, Ginsburg explains that she will retire when her health declines and not before. She is unconcerned with the political leanings of the President who will nominate her successor. And that is true even though the Justice believes that the present Court is unusually activist.

Thanks to Justice Ginsburg, even legal realists (like me) can still believe that law is not politics.


PS Again, thanks to How Appealing. What an incredible free resource.

I am a twit ’cause I don’t know whether to twitter–help me!

I grew up with rotary dial telephones and sometimes I miss them. Now I am blogging. That is a prime example of cognitive dissonance.

Anyway, a really nice person wrote me an e-mail and said I should use Twitter with this blog. Honest to God, I have no idea what that means, or why that would help me blog better. Really, I am a twit in the old-fashioned meaning of that word.

Can anybody help me understand how Twitter would make this blog better? If you do, please explain how I should do it, and then give me a 1, 2, 3 step approach.


PS While I don’t have a Twitter account, I do have a Facebook page (with essentially no information on it). I don’t use it and don’t know how to use. I got it to help me understand how one registers for Facebook and to address a legal question related to one particular aspect of sex offender registries. So, if you think I should be using Facebook with this blog, feel free to add your thoughts to that mystery as well.

A question for Dr. King 50 years later

Photo credit: Jim Bowen per Creative Commons license.

Photo credit: Jim Bowen per Creative Commons license.

The 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream speech” and the March on Washington started me thinking once again about the many young black men I send to prison for dealing drugs and devastating the lives of others in so doing. The black crack whore, pulled into the grimy world of prostitution by her addiction and the young black men who fueled it, and who hung herself in the cell adjacent to the courtroom where I sentenced her, plagues me still. My inability to speak the truth about these young men troubles me even more.

If he were alive today, and with the benefit of the 50 years of history that have unfolded since 1963, Dr. King could provide federal sentencing judges like me with an unmatched perspective backed up by unimpeachable integrity. In short, I wonder what specific advice Dr. King would have for me as I sentence young black drug dealers in 2013 and beyond? That is not an idle question.


A nice way to leave the UK

I don’t travel well. To be more precise, I fall apart when I travel. I suppose it is because my limited supply of neurons cannot take the onslaught of stimuli.

On the way to London, I was confronted by a TSA agent in Chicago who told me my roller bag was too big to carry on. Never mind that I had already “carried it on” the prior flight. Never mind that I had frequently “carried it on” other flights, particularly international flights. With a curt and dismissive gesture from the very bored security official, I quickly found out that there is no appeal from the pronouncements of those officers in the US. OK, so, that’s the context.

I left London Friday. Heathrow airport at 5:30 AM in the morning is busy. Since I had stayed up all night, I was naturally tired and, to boot, my Xanax was kicking in. I checked the “carry on” that was not a “carry on” according to the TSA agent in Chicago. Then free of that bag, I headed to security.

I take a shoulder bag to and from work. It has all the things I think I may sometimes need. In particular, since I smoke a pipe (an affectation picked up when I was a college student and never dropped), the bag has a clear plastic baggie of pipe tobacco. It looks like dope but smells like what it is, pipe tobacco. It also contains my lighters, my judicial credentials, pens, and other stuff. When I travel, the bag also has the travel paperwork and whatever books I am taking along with me together with my increasingly numerous medications. I love my bag.

Back in London, I made it through security, happy that the Brits did not make me take my shoes off. I had a hole  in my right sock where the leather of my loafer had rubbed through and blistered my little toe when Keller and I did our walk-about in London.

While I quickly made it through screening, my shoulder bag was another thing. An alarm went off, and I was asked to take a seat as a British security officer removed the bag from the conveyor belt and took custody of it.

Soon summoned to a table, I was politely requested to remove my things from the bag. I did while nervously explaining my baggie of pipe tobacco. The security agent smiled nicely and said, “Of course, sir.” The inside and outside of the bag was rubbed down with a small cotton square and off the Brit went to test the sample. Another alarm sounded. That process repeated itself three times with the same result.

Next, a senior security officer approached me. He asked the people around me to stand back “for the gentleman’s privacy.” He did so quietly, and with a smile. He then engaged me in a short conversation, asking first very politely if I would “object” to answering some questions. Of course, I said no. Then, he asked questions about the bag and took down some personal identifying information. After that, he said something like, “Sir, you have  been very helpful. I am so sorry for troubling you. You are free to leave with your bag.” He added, “Do have a safe journey.”

The practical, sensible and polite treatment I received from security officials at Heathrow was a nice way to leave the UK. I could not help but contrast the way I was treated as a foreigner in London as compared with the way I was treated as a citizen in Chicago.


A reading list for young lawyers

Jill’s comment to the post about Letters to a young scientist gave me an idea. I would like to solicit suggestions for a reading list of books that young lawyers might find helpful.  It does not matter whether the book relates to the law. The book may well be something entirely unrelated to law, but worthy of a young lawyer’s consideration. Fiction or non-fiction is fine–it doesn’t matter.

So, if you  have a suggestion for a book or even several books that young lawyers should read, put it in a comment to this post.  If I get enough comments, I will put up a post with a compilation of the suggestions.

And, let’s use a bit of a format. Nothing fancy. Something like, title, author, and several descriptive sentences about the book and why you think young lawyers should read it.

I will start.

  1. The Immense Journey. Loren Eiseley. In my opinion, the best book ever written. Young lawyer’s need perspective. Eiseley provides it in a book on natural history and time with prose so beautiful it can make you weep.
  2. Jack Aubrey Novels. Patrick O’Brian. Twenty novels on the friendship of ship’s captain Jack Aubrey of the Royal Navy and Stephen Maturin, ship’s surgeon and intelligence agent. Young lawyers need to read for fun. Life aboard a man-of-war in Nelson’s navy provides the background for the best historical novels ever written.
  3. A Grief Observed. C.S. Lewis. Written after his wife’s death as a way of surviving the “mad midnight moment,” A Grief Observed is C.S. Lewis’s honest reflection on the fundamental issues of life, death, and faith in the midst of loss.  I hope young lawyers will never need this book. Unfortunately, I did. In some ways, this very short book saved my life.

I look forward to your suggestions.


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