On being a dirty old man and how young women lawyers dress

More than a decade ago, I freaked out when tall, statuesque, and beautiful daughter Lisa showed up at her older sister’s (Marne’s) wedding in a Catholic church (that we “borrowed” out of respect for the groom’s religious preference) in a low-cut dress. Poor Joan, at my insistence, and at the last moment, rummaged around in the church’s “lost and found” to locate a demure white sweater for Lisa to wear over her very revealing frock. I was spitting nails. Marne was in tears. The groom had no idea what the fuck had just happened. Lisa shot me daggers throughout the ceremony. Once again, Joan labored under the “evil stepmother” moniker. In short, the last time the Kopf clan entered a church together as a family was one of those memories better left forgotten. And the silly thing about this kerfuffle was that it was all about an old guy’s sense of decorum.

In candor, I have been a dirty old man ever since I was a very young man.  Except, that is, when it comes to my daughters (and other young women that I care deeply about). And that brings me to the amusing debate about how (mostly) young female lawyers dress these days. See e.g, Amanda Hess, Female Lawyers Who Dress Too “Sexy” Are Apparently a “Huge Problem” in the Courtroom, Slate (March 21, 2014).

True story. Around these parts there is a wonderfully talented and very pretty female lawyer who is in her late twenties. She is brilliant, she writes well, she speaks eloquently, she is zealous but not overly so, she is always prepared, she treats others, including her opponents, with civility and respect, she wears very short skirts and shows lots of her ample chest. I especially appreciate the last two attributes.

In a recent case involving this fine young lawyer every female law clerk in the building slipped in and out of the courtroom to observe her. I am not exaggerating. I later learned that word had gotten around about this lawyer’s dress. Acknowledging that the lawyer was really good, the consensus of the sisterhood was uniformly critical. “Unprofessional” was the word used most often. To a woman, the law clerks seethed and sneered. They were truly upset.

From the foregoing, and in my continuing effort to educate the bar, I have three rules that young women lawyers should follow when considering how to dress for court:

1. You can’t win. Men are both pigs and prudes. Get over it.

2. It is not about you. That goes double when you are appearing in front of a jury.

3. Think about the female law clerks. If they are likely to label you, like Jane Curtin, an ignorant slut behind your back, tone it down.


185 responses

  1. To get my attention when I (and others) sat in calendar parts in Criminal Court, some women would actually come pantiless and expose themselves. I tried not to look more than once. Court officers would advise me where to look. No kidding.

    An off handed comment at the bench about a female lawyers ankles said during a discussion about how high heeled shoes can give women a bad back in court made it into my removal hearing and resulted in my being branded as a sexist. So much for political correctness.

  2. I see you are finding your voice again. Glad to see it as it will be good therapy for venting the next few months.

    I have wondered often where I fall on the “dirty old man” scale. Wherever that is, I suspect we are close neighbors, so thanks for making me feel so not alone.

  3. At least, you’re not [now-defrocked] Chief Judge Nottingham. During our investigation of his malfeasance, a lawyer related a tale where Judge Naughty tried to hit on his wife in the freakin’ courtroom. Given that Nottingham confessed to scouring AdultFriendFinder.com for skank in chambers, with his briefs presumably exposed when he was supposed to be reading my briefs, the tale was eminently credible.

    We had one lady in my class who was a former Penthouse playmate, and it was obvious as to why they picked her. In moot court, she was advised to “turn it down” because she kept distracting the judges. I respectfully disagreed. 😉

    In our lawless judocracy, lawyering is all about winning. If you are not using your, em, assets to full advantage in the courtroom, you are probably doing your clients a disservice.

  4. Here’s how one of my women partners put the situation: “I love this piece–I thought a LOT about my dress at my (long) trial …last summer–and I bet that all the men thought about (what they were wearing) NOT AT ALL.

  5. On the one hand, as a female former law clerk, I’m a little bit baffled at the clerks’ seething and sneering and being all around so ruffled by this attorney’s dress. When I’ve seen attorneys appear in what strikes me as inappropriate garb, my objection is based on the casualness, not a… lack of fabric. And I was always more surprised than disgruntled.

    On the other, “think about the female law clerks” seems like a reasonable standard. They either have been in the same position or soon will be — about as close as you can get to a jury of one’s peers!

  6. Please note, there are at least three female law clerks that work in the building who have no idea who or what this post addresses.

  7. Wow. In reading a couple of your posts, just so I wasn’t taking this one out of context, you’ve come across as a sexist pervert. Trying to shame a young woman for how she dresses, when clothing should be irrelevant to how a case is presented, and then claiming that her clothing offended other women. No. You’re trying to slut shame, and perpetuating the view that women’s bodies are something to be ashamed of and hidden, while at the same time stating that you are a pervert who likes to ogle. Shame on you.

  8. Nornin,
    Since I doubt that Judge Kopf needs a knight in shining armor on this point, let’s assume arguendo that Judge Kopf is sexist, and your arguments are true. Does that invalidate his point? No. Because if one judge is a dirty old man, than it is quite likely that others are secretly dirty old men as well. And you’re presenting a case to a bunch of dirty old men who, despite being dirty old men, have lifetime appointments to tackle some really important and complex legal issues. Parading one’s body (whatever the judge’s sexual preference) around the courtroom does not assist them in this endeavor.*

    You say that dress does not matter, and then say that women should be allowed to wear what they want. You also say that those who object to the viewing of women’s bodies should be ashamed. When talking about a court of law, I disagree.

    Please note exhibit A: Judicial dress. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Court_dress

    You will note that these are not exactly the types of clothing that will be featured in Vogue or Cosmopolitan magazine. They are incredibly boring, dull, and sometimes make the wearer look like he should have a sack of toys and have a hobby of breaking into houses via the chimney. But, most of all, all judicial robes focus the attention upon the head of the wearer. In other words, the mind. In our system of law, the focus is on reason and logic.

    Courtrooms are supposed to be places where the law is decided. We take such matters very seriously in this country, and spend thousands of bills and bill hundreds of thousands of dollars (sometimes) for legal work before even stepping foot into a courtroom. And when a lawyer does step into court, there is an expectation that the lawyer, like the judge, is there to argue legal issues and assist the court in resolving the matter. Lawyers are (traditionally at least) called officers of the court.

    But the courtroom belongs to the judge, not the lawyers. So, when in Rome, do as the Romans do. The focus is upon the law and ideas, not upon the body. Judge Kopf, even assuming he is sexist and enjoys oogling female bodies, makes the valid point that bodies are not what he should be focused on during trial. It is distracting and irritating. Distracting a judge would seem to be a terrible idea if the goal is to come to the correct solution to the problem.

    Now, you might argue that distracting the judge is better for your client because the judge is more likely to rule in your favor. I refer you to the response of the female judicial law clerks. Sure, it may distract the judge, but it kills your credibility. You might say this: “Your honor, we conclude that our 12(b)(6) motion should be granted because Plaintiff cannot establish any duty under the common law.” Assuming your theory is correct, and that judges are simply old farts who are too easily distracted by breasts, what the judge might hear is “Your honor, we cleavage that our 12(boob)(6) motion should be granted because Plaintiff cannot establish any booty under my (the judge’s) desk.” This is not the start of a good motion to dismiss.

    Whatever you may have intended to do with such dress to distract the judge is likely going to backfire. The judge is probably going to be pissed that you are distracting him and, whether you think it’s fair or not, he is partially right. If you chose the dress on purpose to distract him, you intended to keep him from doing his job.

    At any rate, what’s clear from this discussion is that there is a dress code for courtrooms, and men and women alike are expected to treat the subject matter with the gravity it deserves.

    Also, I want to note that all of what I just said applies equally to male lawyers appearing in front of dirty old women judges. While I have not heard too much about this problem, I suspect that wearing tight pants, a white blazer and a purple tie and looking like Michael Jackson will not help your case either (although I can’t imagine looking like Michael Jackson would ever help your case in any situation), even if you can moonwalk over to the podium before cross-examining the witness.

    *Please note that none of this applies to depositions, because pretty much anything seems to be fair game to harass the other side. Just don’t annoy the person deciding your case.

  9. Pingback: The Ethics of Decolletage » Defending People

  10. Also, I don’t think Judge Kopf is sexist. But sexism is a real problem, and I think that some judges really do have a problem with it. But it’s probably best for your client to not to exacerbate that problem by purposefully dressing to distract.

  11. I think this is the most important comment in the bunch, and deserves attention.

    This judge purports to know what all the female clerks are thinking and how they all judged this slutty, slutty (although otherwise brilliant and competent) lady lawyer for how she dressed, yet actual female clerks who work in this same building have no idea what or who he is talking about. If her dress were actually so infamous, we wouldn’t expect this would we? Perhaps the judge is just projecting his own feelings/lust/inappropriateness. We should not take his statements at face value, but question why he is so fixated on her bosom that he presumes that all women entering the courtroom during her arguments were there to judge and evaluate her dress. Perhaps they were there b/c they got wind that this judge was visibly drooling at the sight of a pretty young lawyer and that is what they were filing in to see.

  12. Judge- I was just alerted that you and your wonderful blog are back! Made my day (which is a long one as I slog though a massive federal case). I am of course saddened to hear about your illness but being an amateur doctor, I share your optimism. I personally know two attorneys in Miami who beat this hands down (much like I am currently doing to the government.) I look forward to many more blog posts. Writing is addictive and once in your blood……
    Be well your honor.

  13. Yeesh, you may have broken a record for “largest pile of crap ever shoveled in an asinine attempt to excuse the vile and inappropriate behavior of an obviously sexist, possibly misogynistic individual who most certainly does not belong in a seat of power.” Congrats, I guess…?

    Note that you’re attempting to defend someone who is not irritated at all but “appreciates” the female lawyer in question’s clothing habits.

    This judge (and you, Southern Law Student, with your apt pseudonym and your attempt to maintain anonymity and thus speak your unfortunate mind without consequence) needs to grow up and stop defiling his seat with his disgusting and outdated opinions.

    I, for one, refuse to “get over” the fact that some men are “both pigs and prudes,” because respectable and competent individuals will maintain their composure and do their damn jobs regardless. And I have absolutely no sympathy for those whose childish lack of self control finds them distracted in court and penning embarrassing and downright offensive 1950s-esque rhetoric about how their dicks go crazy when they (*gasp*) glimpse the ladies’ cleavage… and of course this is all the fault of the ladies, those poor innocent dicks just can’t help themselves! I probably don’t need to point out how closely this resembles, “She was asking for it.”

    *slams head against table repeatedly*

    P.S. Shall I blame you and the judge for my mild concussion and the bruise growing on my forehead? After all, it’s obviously not my fault: I simply can’t help but try to knock myself unconscious when I witness abject stupidity.

  14. Genevieve,
    I think it’s best if we part ways on this subject. I wish you the best.

  15. I don’t know why you are posting on courtroom dress when you should be writing about your area of expertise: Time travel. (I assume that you were transported here from 1962 based on your viewpoints expressed here.)

  16. Rumpole,

    Thank you, my friend. I appreciate your kind words. And, you are right: Writing is addictive (and particularly so when you beat down the government.) All the best.


  17. Dear Rich,

    As the only female Article III judge in Nebraska (ever) I am so grateful that I work among a group of district judges (active and senior) that includes not a single sexist. As a young female lawyer (37 years ago) I learned to wear suits several sizes too big, so I wouldn’t draw attention to myself, and in hopes that judges and other lawyers would listen to what I was saying, and not be distracted by my appearance. (When I was the lawyer for Nebraska’s prison system in the 1980s, I found that inmates will alert a female lawyer if her appearance is the least bit inappropriate.)

    Now, when I’m asked for advice by young female lawyers, I tell them (among other things) to dress in a way that no one will remember what they wore. It’s unfortunate, but there truly are judges who don’t hear a word a female lawyer says in oral argument until the judge has evaluated and digested her appearance. I’m sure the same is true for fellow lawyers and jurors. I’ve learned this through many years serving on moot court and mock trial panels with fellow lawyers and judges. Some male judges comment at length about female lawyers’ appearance, and seem to forget the substance of their arguments.

    So, Rich, you are NOT a dirty old man. You, once again, are stimulating discussion about a topic that many consider taboo. Good for you!

    (And you were a wonderful MC yesterday at Judge Ross’s ceremony. Thanks so much for hosting the reception.)

    Your faithful reader,

  18. Jill,

    All good. I also received “patient education” today, and you will appreciate the irony of trying to educate me!

    All the best.


  19. Laurie,

    It is true that you are the first and only female Article III judge in Nebraska, although, and as you will remember, I once claimed that I was so. But that’s a different story.

    Thank you for kind remarks. Honestly, when I wrote the post this morning, I thought I was writing a gentle piece that was essentially self-mocking but might, just might, contain a grain or two off truth about the controversy over how young female lawyers dress in court. Unfortunately, I fear that I have really offended certain folks. I am truly sorry for giving offense. Words can hurt or harm, and I (almost) never intend to do that.

    Anyway, you are a dear, dear friend, and a great Chief Judge. Thanks for writing.

    All the best.


    PS As the guy who wrote both Carhart decisions striking down state and federal partial birth abortion statutes that went to the Supreme Court, I am annoyed at being called a “sexist.” But, nobody forced me to write a blog, and, in the free market of ideas where I have elected to dabble, I ought take my own advice. I should get over it.

  20. Rich, my esteemed undergraduate and law school classmate, I think that your latest blogs raises interesting issues of professionalism including that of the young lawyer who you have taken to task, albeit she is unnamed (but the grapevine will take care of that quickly) as well as that of a still sitting judge who puts into the public arena his observations and advice, which frankly would likely be the same as mine, but some things are best kept (in the interest of professionalism) to one’s self, rather than aired on a Federal Judge’s blog. RDS . ,

  21. Dick,

    Thank you,my good friend.

    I try to think about your final point–certain things are best left unsaid–when I write for the blog. Sometimes, I miss that mark and comment upon something that produces more heat than light. My most recent post might be one of those failings. I will try to do better.

    By the way, using my literary license, the example I gave in the post was an amalgam of more than one person and more than one event and did not necessarily relate to the same place. That said, the essence of the example was accurate.

    All the best.


  22. kdba,

    Thanks for your comment. I appreciate your clarification. To be clear, I was not referring to Court of Appeals clerks.

    And, by the way, using my literary license, the example I gave in the post was an amalgam of more than one person and more than one event and did not necessarily relate to the same place or person. That said, the essence of the example was accurate.

    All the best.


  23. Judge,

    Remember when my young, feminist protest of Phyllis Schlafly was completely taken out of context in my Fox News interview and I looked like a blithering blind liberal idiot? I told you I was still embarrassed a decade later. You told me Laura Ingraham never gave me a chance. I had a good point, and if you wanted to understand my point, you could have, but I didn’t have a charitable audience and I gave that non-charitable audience openings to misunderstand me.

    Did I ever mention that I got hate mail from anonymous people after that? Folks who just wanted to let me know they were ashamed I was raised in Nebraska.

    This whole blogging thing is tough. You made some comments taking shots at yourself. In real life, that type of thing helps you relate to people–they respect your advice more if you manage to avoid a “holier than thou” tone. It also makes your writing better. And you’re a great writer. You could be nicer to yourself though. For example, you don’t have to say that you’re arrogant all the time. We all know you aren’t. And you don’t have to say you’re a dirty old man before commenting on courtroom attire. We all know you aren’t. But, it’s a good writing tactic for gaining credibility with a reader who isn’t looking to exploit all of your statements. For those that are, well, you can’t win them over anyway.

    Everyone who knows you knows you aren’t sexist. Everyone who has followed your judicial career knows you made some extreme sacrifices in order to get important decisions right, decisions that vindicated the cries of feminists. This young female attorney could not have asked for a better mentor. Thanks for that. Some things are more important than others.

    I’m also glad that your first day of chemo went well!

  24. Dear Jill,

    Thank you my friend. As you say, some things are more important than others, and your friendship is on the top of my “important” list. All the best.


  25. In today’s political and social climate, what one actually says is often less important than how their remarks can be misconstrued by those who are anxious to take offense.

  26. Chocolatetort,

    I appreciate your comment particularly given your experience as a law clerk.

    I think the upset from the clerks was a reflection of how very hard it is for young female lawyers to succeed in the trial business even without injecting the issue of dress into the equation. But,this is speculation on my part.

    All the best.


  27. What makes you think you need to write about this on the Internet? We women lawyers have it difficult enough already; no need for you to remind us, and everyone else, that our bodies and how we cover them are *constant* topics of conversation, no matter how competent we are. Stop being part of this problem. Stop talking about our bodies.

  28. Dear Esquire,

    Interesting point. But, as the post’s citation to the recent Slate article proves, how women dress for the courtroom is a subject of debate among the bench and bar. Since this blog was intended to address federal trial practice, among other things, I thought the post was relevant and responsive.

    I do not think I am a part of the problem, and the post was certainly not intended in that vein. Nonetheless, I have given you offense. I am sorry.

    All the best.


  29. These are the same discussions that occur at courthouses every day of the week, by lawyers and judges of both genders. The article and post simply illustrate a growing concern regarding professional dress code. If a male attorney tries to get by without a tie in court, he is teased by compatriots and sometimes by courts. There are some judges that you would never attempt to walk into court without a tie. I have seen female judges pull female attorneys aside and tell them not to appear in court dressed a certain way again. Some female lawyers appear in court in outfits that are in no way professional. We all self police our brothers and sisters in the legal profession. Great job Rich, take care and good luck with your treatment.

  30. I served as lead counsel recently in a high-profile consumer fraud class action in my neck of the woods. Our trial team consisted of three, including a very smart, talented colleague who has very little trial experience. In addition to being extremely bright and charismatic, she normally dresses flashy. We spent a lot of time thinking about wardrobe, including mine and hers, and there were a number of times that I vetoed what she wanted to wear as too flashy. My own choice of clothing for jury trials is also similarly calibrated: must look good, must be well put together, but never flashy or distracting.

    As a younger trial lawyer, I wanted to do something then very unusual for men–I wanted to pierce an ear. I did not.

    I suppose one could call me sexist for riding herd over my female colleague’s wardrobe. But my goal at all times is persuasion. That is my job. Any distrraction that gets between me and a judge or me and a jury is a barrier to persuasion and success. While some things cannot be controlled (e.g., my remarkably small stature, voice pitch and accents, disabilities), trial lawyers should do all that is necessary to remove distractions. That is why I never sported an earring.

    I understood your point from the outset and also appreciated the point of view. That said, I fully expected the blowback. In my era, becoming a trial lawyer meant sacrifice. Dress is a small part of the sacrifices we must make to serve effectively in this role.

    I do not mean to play the role of Pollyanna. The recurring issues of gender and race are very real and must not be muted. But the issues you raise here are not nearly as simple as some of your commenters seem to imply.

    PS-So glad your chemo goes well. Have been straining for cancer jokes, but all have been complete groaners so far.

  31. This was a post on Facebook in response to this Blog: “What’s this lawyers name? Apparently she is the one I need to hire in this sexist child custody court system. At least then Judge [_] might actually listen to the evidence instead of sleeping, making lazy rulings right before his vacation or not even knowing he made a ruling in a case (during a request for a new hearing) because his first ruling had no thought put into it. Maybe some cleavage would help him concentrate.”

    Respectfully, comments like the above post is one reason I take issue to the blog post. It simply tees up posts like that, resulting in insult to the judiciary, the legal system, and the women participating in it. I recognize the comment is an attempt at humor in expressing frustration with the system, but why do women lawyers have to be the brunt of the joke. Digging a little deeper, pitting this as “frumpy women calling other women sluts (but note, male judges like the cat fight as well as the cleavage)” vs. “sexy women who just need to learn their place in a courtroom” is just a passe portrayal of women. A private conversation with the woman would have sufficed.

    Thanks, but no thanks, for the help to women in the profession.

  32. This is a comment left on Facebook in response to the Blog post:
    “What’s this lawyers name? Apparently she is the one I need to hire in this sexist child custody court system. At least then Judge [] might actually listen to the evidence instead of sleeping, making lazy rulings right before his vacation or not even knowing he made a ruling in a case (during a request for a new hearing) because his first ruling had no thought put into it. Maybe some cleavage would help him concentrate.” End quote.

    The blog tees up posts like this, resulting in insult to the judiciary, the legal system, and the women participating in it. Why do women have to be drug into the muck? I appreciated hearing from a few law clerks who disagreed with this version of events. The portrayal is passe, evoking the old “cat fight” shifting the blame to those “frumpy smart and presumably jealous law clerks calling sexy women ‘sluts’ (but really, the male judges actually like it, but since other women and jurors won’t, don’t do it)” vs. the “smart, young, sexy attorney who just needs a little guidance in the courtroom.” Where are the pillows and pigtails?

    Thanks, but no thanks for the help to women in the profession. The blog’s message is laudable, the delivery reveals deeper issues. A private sidebar would have sufficed. There is no need to apologize for if I’ve taken offense. I haven’t. It is a revelation about the state our slow-to-change profession. No CEO would ever post such a thing.

  33. Judge Kopf

    First — glad to see you’re back and sorry to hear about your cancer battle.

    Second regarding this. This will be a long post which can be summed up as follows. In response to my male partners forgiving tone about a waitress showing a lot of cleavage (“she probably doesn’t know how revealing the outfit is”), my partner’s wife responded “Honey, a woman always knows where her boobs are.”

    I have been practicing law for 20 years now and before a major court event — like a recent oral argument before the Nebraska Supreme Court this is what runs through my mind:

    “Let’s see I think a black suit because I don’t have comfortable navy shoes, oh — did I buy panty-hose, shoot, I’ll have to wear black tights — is the black skirt with the black tights and black shoes too much black — does my bottom half look like a beetle now. What color shirt. White is too boring with the black, but traditional — it is the supreme court – how about pink so I can look feminine but still professional. That pink button down will work — do I need a cami in case it gaps over the chest – -if I wear a cami will I get too hot and sweaty? What if the client wants lunch afterward. Tiffany’s bracelet -or Pandora — Pandora is too jangly — might be distracting. Pearls — are pearls too old lady? What should I pack in my brief case – there will be security — lipstick, extra tights, feminine products? They don’t throw away gels at the supreme court do they? — maybe extra foundation in case this zit that is growing from stress pops out. Should I tuck my shirt in? Out – -Out makes the jacket lay better but maybe isn’t as professional looking, but the tucked shirt makes the skirt look wrinkly. I better make sure that coffee cup doesn’t leak — spilling on pink would be bad.”

    What I imagine my male counterpart thinks:

    “Suit number 1, tie number 3 and shirt number 2”

    What I imagine you think before going into the court room:

    “Time to put on the robe.”

    My point and I promise you there is one. I think women in this profession spend a lot of time thinking about how they dress and present themselves, but what it all comes down to is: Are you wearing something that makes you feel smart, competent, successful and persuasive?

    Does this 29 year old composite female appear smart, composed and articulate before you? Does she win? Chances are a 29 year old woman, who made it through law school, passed the bar and is in private practice has thought about her appearance a lot, and she has made a choice about what makes her feel presentable in court. I know you are the decider and it should make a difference on what you find distracting, but if this composite female has found her own way to be successful, I think we do her a disservice in assuming she doesn’t know what she is doing when she dresses a certain way and that she needs to be educated about what is appropriate. (I’m assuming she can find the approximately million and half blog posts on how professional women should dress). She knows where her boobs are and let’s give her the credit of her own brain power to know what she is doing.

  34. Thank you, Judge Kopf, I think women and men are better served by honesty about this issue, even if we don’t like the double-standards our culture imposes. I assume you would offer a similar critique of men whose courtroom appearance is unprofessional; but (see “double-standards”) men’s clothing tends to lend itself less to concerns about being revealing.

    The issue is quite simply: would you want the lawyer representing you to be dressed unprofessionally, in the manner the judge describes above? If not, does that mean you’re unfairly judging women or shaming them? No, it means you acknowledge the reality that professionalism matters, even though the way standards of appearance are regulated in our society are admittedly sexist.

    Likewise, I did not take the Judge to be trying to “shame” anyone here. I respect the concerns others voiced above about not shaming women or focusing unnecessarily on their bodies. After all, women are often blamed for their own assaults or harassment! However, the point is not that women shouldn’t be able to wear what they like; the point is that they shouldn’t do this as attorneys in a courtroom. For all we know the judges are wearing shorts and tank tops under their robes, so they get an easy pass on this.

  35. This response is really difficult for me. I am a youngish, female, Nebraska attorney. I always felt respected in various courtrooms by all Judges and attorneys that I have encountered. I read stories about how female attorneys were treated in other states and was proud that, in Nebraska, we all seemed to be above that. I highly respect you, Judge Kopf, and Judge Smith Camp who commented above.

    However, this blog is wholly inappropriate and has vast repercussions.

    If you wanted to discuss courtroom dress, did it have to be sexual? Commenting on a female’s clothing is not appropriate fodder for a male blog unless it’s a fashion blog. It especially is not appropriate fodder for a Judge’s blog. Attempting to qualify these statements with how intelligent this lawyer is, and how you’re just a “dirty old man” does not rectify the objectification. In fact, it makes it worse.This blog entry is beyond offensive and perpetuates rape culture, i.e. “I can say what I want about a woman’s appearance, demean her publicly, and talk about her in a sexual manner because I’m just a dirty old man.” It is not okay. This is akin to allowing sexual harassment because she “asked for it” by “wearing a short skirt.” It was painful for me to read and insulting on multiple levels.

    Please do not bother with the short copy and paste apology. It is not me that you need to apologize to. I suggest you read up on current feminist issues and learn from this.

    As an aside, I wish you well in your chemotherapy journey and I will be thinking of you and your family during this time.

  36. Judge K,

    I’m a Canadian lawyer and was directed to your blog post through a friend’s Facebook page. It struck a chord with me, and although I can see from the comments above that you have received and responded to negative reactions, I thought it only fair that I provide you with a link to the blog post your post inspired me to write. I hope that you will not consider it an attack, but part of a much larger dialogue that seems to be happening throughout the legal profession. http://themelaniac.blogspot.com/2014/03/the-woman-professionals-wardrobe.html

    I also see from your comments that you have been ill and I wish you all the best in your treatment.

    Best regards,

    Melania Cannon

  37. Will there be a follow-up post about the men who follow the scantily-clad women out of the courtroom to ogle them? About the issues with their conduct? Can’t wait.

  38. Melanie,

    Thanks for your thoughtful comment, and, in particular, your blog post. It is well written and I found your suggestions for judges in particular to be very helpful. In no way do I consider your comment or post to be an attack. On the contrary, your keen insights (and nicely written prose) are instructive and educational.

    Keep writing. All the best.


  39. Jeanelle,

    As I hope you know, I have tremendous respect for you as a first rate trial lawyer (and a person). But, answer me this (but only to yourself):

    You write that “She knows where her boobs are and let’s give her the credit of her own brain power to know what she is doing.” But, what if this otherwise brilliant young woman really doesn’t know what she’s doing when it comes to attire and the client suffers?

    One of the reasons you took so much time to consider your apparel for your recent appearance before the Supreme Court is that you are an experienced lawyer who understands that trial and appellate practice in the real world is a place where unpredictable risk abounds for your client. Every effort should be made to reduce that risk no matter how annoying or unfair the predicate for that risk might be.

    That goes for men too, although far less so from an attire point of view. Examples: Wearing a large diamond stud in your ear, while sporting a gem encrusted Rolex that shows below your french cuffs with shiny gold stays, is not a good thing for male criminal defense lawyers to sport when defending cartel members before a jury. It is also not a good thing for a male defense lawyer to appear for his client at a child porn sentencing wearing a “daffy duck” tie.

    The foregoing said, I sincerely appreciate your candor and humor as well as your insightful remarks. All the best.


  40. Judge – I might agree with the lack of education plea if we were talking about one appearing in court dressed as if one was ready to take a nap, go to the gym or appear on Honey Boo Boo. But that isn’t what we are talking about. We are talking about adult women who dress too attractively. I assume that said women have had contact with men in their 20+ years on the planet and that they have encountered “dirty old men” in the past. So, given their high education level, I personally am going to assume that they are familiar with all of the studies that say that people (judges presumably included) find attractive people more influential and trust-worthy and, in fact, attractive people make 5 to 10% more money than their ugly counter-parts. Which begs the question — is her client suffering because of said attractive attorney’s wardrobe — or is she winning?

  41. As a female trial attorney who has appeared countless times before Judge Kopf, I believe his comments are on the mark. He requests dignity and decorum in his courtroom no matter the gender of counsel, party, etc., and he would be equally observant of a male attorney inappropriately attired.

    It is proper to hold the line on this issue. Perhaps rather than finding offense, we may find value in considering an uncensored suggestion about effective courtroom persuasion, which directs the factfinder’s focus to the case, not the lawyer.

    And are not RGK’s irascible wit and frankness some of the reasons we all read his blog? It certainly is for me.

  42. My Dear Judge Kopf:

    As one of the attorneys for the plaintiffs in second Carhart case, I was thrilled to see you had posted something on the internet. A friend sent me the link expressing surprise that a federal judge would be willing to write this publicly (she is a bit young). I clicked on the link eagerly though with a bit of trepidation given the title.

    I will weigh in with a couple thoughts. First, you are the best judge I ever appeared in front of, though in truth my trial court experience is limited, as you no doubt know having observed me in a trial! I have though argued my share of motions and appeals. A young lawyer that I didn’t know came up to me at a conference once. He had observed one of my arguments in your courtroom (maybe after post trial briefing?) and said he thought it was like we were having an intellectual discussion over tea, and indeed this is often how it felt. This should give some of those doubters a sense of the respect you always showed lawyers and their arguments in your courtroom. You guided attorneys on both sides like a gentle but firm trial practice instructor — none of us were particularly experienced at that point — and you appropriately rebuked one of my witnesses who was referring to the government’s attorney by her first name, pointing out that she should be referred to as counsel, to my relief.

    You worked harder than any of us i think, though we were all up well past midnight every night, including my wonderful pregnant co-counsel. You compiled the most detailed summary of the record and issued a decision that was about 400 pages if memory serves me correctly. And you were fair to us, even though we surely ruined your chances of being elevated to the Circuit, especially when we appeared back in your courtroom the second time. In short you are an honorable, fair, brilliant, and dedicated judge and anyone who doubts this should come talk to me in Brooklyn, NY. You are definitely not a sexist, and as to whether you are a dirty old man, it depends on what the meaning of is, is, as Bill Clinton said. I suspect you are just an honest man.

    As to your advice on dress, I find it right on and realistic. As someone from the Northeast arguing unpopular cases (read “yankee feminist”) all over the country, I learned it was wise to try to dress like the local anchor women. Wear jewel colors in the South, I was told, and I did. A bright multi-colored scarf also works there. As does teasing up your hair a bit to give it a bit of a poof. I also used to wear a $2 ring i bought at the Brooklyn Museum of Art that was a goldish color just so it would read subconsciously as “married,” thus raising no questions. My goal was always to just blend in. Challenges and efforts to change the world were relegated to the pages of briefs and words I was using. I understand the desire to change the world and perhaps if my cases hadn’t been so political, I would have needed to be more political in my dress, but if it doesn’t help your client, it doesn’t seem like a good forum for the battle.

    I also understand the concerns about and of the female clerks in the courtroom. Blending in is a safe way not to incur their wrath as well. Of course, the crazy hypocrisy in our world about female v. male sexuality makes this all very difficult. Watch any attorneys or doctors on tv and they are all wearing very short skirts and showing lots of cleavage and they all look fabulous. It used to be just Ally McBeal but now, it’s just about everyone. And young women are owning their sexuality now in a way I applaud. But no one said it would be easy or fair to do this. In closing (finally):
    1) you are still my favorite judge;
    2) it would be nice if we lived in a different world;
    3) if we ever do live in a different world, you will be part of the reason we do.

    As to your battles with cancer, I am sad to hear of it and I wish you all the best. You are a tough guy so I am sure you will beat it and live a good long life.

    In appreciation,
    Priscilla (Cilla) Smith

  43. I’ve often been asked by clients what to wear to court and I give the same advice to all: Dress the way you would for a house of worship.

    I want jurors to remember what they said, not what they wore.

    The same concept applies to lawyers, either male or female.

  44. I’m a 77 year old Walmart greeter and I’d be fired in a second if I made these comments at work. Neither your job nor your age nor your gender excuse your stupid comments. Show some respect.

  45. Dear Priscilla,

    My goodness,you make me blush. Thank you.

    But, in truth I don’t warrant that high praise. Indeed,
    my experience with you,along with your fine opponent,left a lasting impression on me. The two of you, and your fine colleagues, deserve the praise. That is why I wrote, Richard G. Kopf, How Extraordinary Lawyers Saved an Ordinary Trial Judge from Mucking Up an Extraordinary Case, 1 Neb. L. Rev. Bull. 1 (2009), http://lawreview.unl.edu/?p=262.

    As always, all the best.


  46. Well, maybe i made you blush, but you just made me cry, well, a little. 😉 We did have fun in that courtroom, which is crazy given what a contentious case it was. I’ll never forget the hilarity I caused by pronouncing the name of an author of a medical article that was an exhibit in the case, Henriet, using a proper French accent.
    All the best to you,

  47. Perhaps you would be more comfortable if all of the women in your court were to wear burkas…?

  48. Wow, am I ever glad I don’t have to appear before you. I would be very uncomfortable,having read your post.

  49. I feel this post and these opinions are very unprofessional, no matter your profession.

    It is not okay to shame your daughter for her clothing in church. In the past, it may have been okay to tell a young woman to cover up in this way. But these days, your “sense of decorum” comes off as domineering sexism. The culture has changed.

    In the past, it might have been okay to excuse your leering at women as the habits of a “dirty old man.” These days, it is not okay to leer. It is not okay to indulge your physical arousal at the way a lawyer in your court dresses. You might have those thoughts (you are human), but you do not make those thoughts her business. You do not use them to dictate how she is to dress.

    Women often shame other women in order to raise their own status with high-status men in their professions. The female law clerks / women shaming this lawyer for her dress were seeking your approval. No doubt they’ve been doing this to other women their whole lives to seek approval from powerful men, and may not be aware of why they’re doing it.

    Women are blamed for arousing men in all aspects of life, no matter what they wear. It could be exposing cleavage. It could be exposing calves, or ankles, or collarbones, or our hair. If we allow it in one aspect of our dress, where is it to stop? We are always at fault for causing feelings in other men, no matter what we do. To truly exist and live in this world, we must insist that men take responsibility for their “dirty old man” thoughts and opinions. We must insist that they are YOUR responsibility to deal with. Not the responsibility of the woman who inspired them.

    You may have a record of supporting women’s causes in your career, and if this is so, then you must support women’s rights on principle. If so, this presents an opportunity for you to expand your awareness of the issues women face with body policing every day, whether outright or subtle, and become a beacon of tolerance and support for women in your courtroom no matter their dress–rather than part of the problem.

  50. Jenny,

    Thanks for expressing your views. While I think those views are wrong on multiple levels, I glad to consider them seriously.

    All the best.


  51. Jenny, you silly little long-winded social justice warrior…

    Sure, you have the right to present yourself in any manner you choose, but that right doesn’t include the power to choose how anyone responds to you. If you show up in court with your tits on display, it’s not anyone else’s fault if you’re not taken seriously.

    Now, grow up and get over yourself.


  52. Judge Kopf,

    I read your post, the comments, and then your post again, and still appreciate the spirit with which it ended, and I enjoyed, respect, and learned from the many comments that were offered in support of your (right to) post.

    Your post, though, really pissed me off.

    I respectfully suggest that the high esteem with which you deservedly are held might have been better spent staking a more aspirational signpost along your well-respected road.

    Although your story was colorful, the panache with which it was written offers no cover for its prurience and your “especial appreciation” for the short skirts and large breasts one woman chooses to emphasize in your courtroom. Those comments were not only unnecessary, but were also stated in an offensively approving tone far beneath the dignity of the profession and the civil aspirations every man should embrace. Moreover, the comments amply demonstrated that your approach, ironically enough, distracted many who read it much as inappropriate dress in court distracts from an attorney’s professionalism.

    Rather than raising a disturbing question in the minds of the many who do not know you, it would have been far better to have simply said that when appearing before you, all attorneys and their clientele can rely upon you to have checked the baser instincts everyone possesses at the courthouse door. Further, you might have added that you expect every attorney appearing in your court to dress in a manner such that no one has cause to doubt what profession is being practiced or whether the attorney possesses the requisite skills attendant thereto.

    Whether you agree with me or not, it remains true that when I have the occasional time to read your blog, I always learn something, I always appreciate your command of the language, and though I don’t know you, I sincerely join with those who posted wishes for your speedy recovery.

  53. You quote a generic Wikpedia article *and*…astonishingly…use Michael Jackson as your “male” example. Are you serious???

  54. Dear Morgan,

    If had written what you propose would I have stimulated the discussion that followed? Does that matter? Should that matter? Why do some posts garner praise for telling a raw version (of at least part of) the truth, and others, like this one, garner damnation? Your comment causes me to think (again) through those and related questions. Your comment is food for further thought.

    And thanks for your kind comments. The foregoing said, I am sorry that I pissed you off. All the best.


  55. So, the point is that women objectify each other also, but, most often in a manner different from how men are likely to objectify women. Not bad for a guy hired by chimpy. Nyuk nyuk nyuk.

  56. Truth, I have rules and you just violated one. You are banned and your comment sent to the spam file.

    To other readers, “Truths” comment was deleted and no longer appears in the blog. See my Rules.


  57. Eh, men would be thinking things about the pretty young lawyers no matter what they wore…so they might as well dress plain for work and avoid drama. A pretty female lawyer is first and foremost a pretty female lawyer, an ugly female lawyer is first and foremost and ugly one…as is an old female lawyer. Their skill and expertise follow. That is the way it has always been and always will be. It would be the latter two types of female lawyers that would need help in the wardrobe/appearance department to gain influence. They would also be criticized for not enhancing their appearance where they can.

    So basically, pretty young female lawyers should dress simply while the unattractive and aged should try to dress as attractively as possible without looking scandalous to avoid drama. Not that we all don’t know this already. OK, let’s move on…

  58. Pingback: Morning Feature – “Get Over It” … Rape Culture and Judge Richard Kopf | BPI Campus

  59. I object, your honor. Publicly humiliating your daughter Lisa over what should have remained a private family spat, publicly humiliating an attorney whom I’m sure will be recognized by colleagues who appear regularly in your court, and publicly humiliating “the sisterhood” of clerks whose catty gossip you chose to broadcast …

    … had nothing to do with your “sense of decorum.”

    It had everything to do with your “sense of male privilege.”

    The rest of my argument is here.

  60. Pingback: Dirty Lawyer, Dirty Judge, Dirty Men | Simple Justice

  61. Pingback: Federal Judge Tells Women Lawyers Not To Dress Like ‘An Ignorant Slut’ | Omaha Free Press

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  64. Interesting to see that, when presenting “an amalgam of more than one person and more than one event and did not necessarily relate to the same place or person,” this judge chooses to begin the paragraph with “True story.” Makes me question his understanding of what “true” means.

  65. Pingback: Judge Admits To Being A ‘Dirty Old Man’ In Post About How Women Lawyers Dress | The News On Time

  66. Sorry,John…you silly little self-righteous twit…

    I hate to have to tell you what ought to be obvious to you, but our “tits” are a natural part of our bodies…and they are ALWAYS going to “be on display”. (Oh! The horror!!)

    What do you want we women to do to be “taken seriously”? Bind our breasts? Wear burquas? Cut the darned things off?

  67. Pingback: Judge Admits To Being A 'Dirty Old Man' In Post About How Women Lawyers Dress | DailyScene.comDailyScene.com

  68. I wish we would progress to a world where women are judged on their merits, and not on their body or wardrobe. I’ve seen plenty of men attend court with pit-stained shirts, unkempt hair, unpressed trousers…all which could be deemed “inappropriate” for court, but because they don’t have boobs, and aren’t objects to be oogled or judged by appearance nothing is said, and certainly no one is writing blogs about it. I graduated with an honors arts degree, I scored a 168 on my LSAT, I graduated law school and passed the bar in two provinces. I think I can handle my wardrobe, thanks.

  69. Never been here before and am not a lawyer, but through owning property and business interests could have put several kids through law school with the time and money I’ve spent in courtrooms.

    Several observations;
    It doesn’t make a damn bit of difference what any feminist or anyone else thinks about how women lawyers should be allowed to dress. Some poor sap is quite probably paying that woman a huge sum to prevent his life being destroyed or to get back something that was stolen from him. How she dresses should be geared to making it a non issue so that she can win her case for her client, not making a statement.
    It is an unfortunate fact that how women, especially young, attractive ones, dress matters. Sorry people, but that’s human nature and hasn’t changed for the last several thousand years and so probably won’t in the next several.
    The only real question that remains is whether dressing provocatively is a net positive or negative. In most instances I believe it is a negative and not a small one. And there’s no real need to delve any further than the largely unassailable fact that most women will resent that type of dress and while many men will appreciate it on the one hand many will also resent it simultaneously.
    That the author is labelled various nasty things for recognizing the real world and immutable human nature says a lot more about the labelers than him.

    To RGK, I don’t know the particulars of your illness, but I just lost my perfect wife to breast cancer late last year after eight years of fighting it and so I hope you have a better outcome and stand strong through the treatments. I trust you will. It’s no fun, but you’ll probably learn many things you never would have in law school or a courtroom; many of them rather more important, I’ll bet.
    You’ll probably meet a better class of people in the chemo room too. 🙂

    And lastly could I ask that someone somewhere [perhaps a learned judge?] take a stand and resist the rising tide of f*** becoming just a casual word tossed into every conversation?
    While it seemed a little out of place, no need for the standard “I have upset you, that was not my intention” disclaimer. 🙂

  70. I think this is changing, at least from personal experience and many friends I graduated with. The vast majority of us new male lawyers tend to think very hard about our dress going into court. It gets to a point where every detail about our appearance is calculated for maximum effect. Whether it truly helps or not is another matter entirely. What I am getting at is men are starting to care about their appearance in court just as much as women.

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  72. The Job of a lawyer is to win the case they are arguing.

    Not being a lawyer I don’t know if it’s possible to advance such a goal through the right dress but if there is a chance that the wrong dress could hinder it (or future cases) one should act accordingly.

    We live in the real world, it is the job of a lawyer to act based on those realities.

    if you are a lawyer and I am paying you to represent me you damn well better understand this. If you want to complain about the “patriarchy” or “fairness” do it on your time or after my case is done.

    If you are a client and don’t make this clear, they you deserve the result you get

  73. Brian,

    Thanks for you kind comment particularly about my treatment.

    As for use of the word “Fuck,” there is an interesting and now famous law review article on the word written by a serious law professor. See here.

    I use the word too often. Like any word that is overused, the overuse becomes tiresome and shopworn. I will try to do better.

    All the best.


  74. I’m a female lawyer, and I think it MATTERS what women lawyers wear. You can dress beautifully, fashionably and professionally without being overly revealing or sexy. It’s naive to think men can control their reactions to a sexy woman. Biology plays a role in this. If you look sexy, men will notice. Period. It doesn’t make the men sexist pigs. So women need to decide if they want to be noticed for being sexy or for being good lawyers. It’s their choice. End of story.

  75. All lawyers (and judges) should dress appropriately in court. Yet it is extremely disheartening to me that you would advocate that a woman needs to sacrifice fashion so that she is treated with the same respect that a man is treated. No one should have to wear a suit that is too large in order to be respected. I should not have to worry that if I wear a patterned blouse that a judge or fellow attorney won’t listen to my argument.

  76. Pingback: Federal Judge Cautions Women Lawyers Not To Dress Like Ignorant Sluts | Conspiracy Wire

  77. Is this the moment when you realized that one of the parties in a particular case might have legitimate claim that they didn’t receive a fair hearing because you were too busy drooling over the lady-lawyer’s boobs? Or did you merely realize that perhaps it’s not polite to tell a particular woman (in front of all the world, no less) that you’ve been staring at her body lasciviously.

  78. When I went to law school in California in the 90s, an accomplished female trial lawyer was demonstrating how she used her femininity (not her sexuality) to her advantage, and stated her male counterparts could not do the same thing without looking creepy. But she used it proudly, because she felt it helped her client’s case.

    I do wonder why people get so offended at this article. The point is to dress professionally in the courtroom. Period. It is perfectly acceptable for a judge to comment on appropriate courtroom attire. The other point is, if you flaunt your sexuality you will get noticed. That should not be a surprise to anyone. Court (or the workplace) is just not the place to do so.

    Some of these comments sound like “I want to dress as sexy or revealing (i.e., not professional attire) as I want whenever and wherever I want, and if you notice me you are a pervert.”

  79. Pingback: Find your Attorneys and Lawyers » Federal Judge Tells Women Lawyers Not To Dress Like ‘An Ignorant Slut’ – ThinkProgress

  80. I would suggest they spend more time on preparing their case and less time worrying about what they are wearing – then again if these folks are counting on “every detail of [their] appearance … calculated for maximum effect effect” then perhaps they lack the trial skills to persuade and so must rely on their physical appearance.

  81. Among other things, Kopf’s piece reveals that he has “been a dirty old man ever since I was a very young man. Except, that is, when it comes to my daughters (and other young women that I care deeply about).” So, you’re a dirty old man with strange female children? That’s called pedophilia, not “being a dirty old man.”

  82. Looks like the social justice warrior / nothing better do crowd has seen fit to come for your proverbial digital head. It’s not as if at law school orientation they don’t tell you “Dress demure if you want the judge or jury to focus on your argument. If you argument sucks, let it all hang out and hope for the perv vote.” Or something along those lines. In 2001, when I went to school, they told women to wear past the knee skirts or dresses. They didn’t even want women wearing pantsuits. To be fair, they told men to avoid black suits because it makes us look like gangsters. All the women I see in the MDFL dress professionally and prefer to let their words, not their assets, do their talking, as it should be. It used to be the feminists got mad if you encouraged or appreciated women in revealing clothing. Now you’re not allowed to criticize revealing clothing. Gotta love consistency.

  83. I think you are missing the point…why even talk about what women lawyers look like. We don’t talk about what male lawyers look like. Why not give women the benefit that if they made it through law school they can navigate their professional attire. WRT Judges, I would be aghast if they determined a client’s justice based on what their lawyer wore (or the color of their skin, or gender, etc.). Sure, they can have an opinion on what is appropriate attire for ALL lawyers in court but the fact is the focus is not on what lawyers wear but what WOMEN lawyers wear and it’s sexist. Simple as that. We have in the legal profession a culture where we spend all this time on this really stupid issue. In actuality, most women lawyers dress very professionally and demure. I expect there is an equal number of poorly dressed women lawyers as there are men lawyers at court. I see shabbily dressed men more than I do women (unpressed suits, stained shirts, mismatched shoes, etc). But we ignore the male offenders and obsess over the women, because women are judged on appearance and men aren’t. The fact that our society is sexist and has been sexist for a long time does not mean we should accept it. A colleague of mine shared with me that only yesterday she was called “hot” at court when she had her Supreme Court robes on…. is this her fault for being too sexy as well? Maybe she was asking for it because her tabs fell down over her breasts rather than straight down to her gut like some of our male counterparts. Two women can wear the exact same outfit, and one will be judged more harshly than the other because of their body shape and how they wore it. If you have a “sexy” shape, by male stereotypical standards, that’s hard to hide, even if you wear a suit and shirt. If you are large breasted but not broad shouldered, your jacket is going to be fitted across the chest. It’s ridiculous you have to hide your body (bc you kind of have to take it to court with you) because someone might not have the (ability? desire? intelligence?) to differentiate your skill and ability from your sexuality. I would expect more from our judiciary than to be unfair to clients bc their lawyer didn’t button the neck button on her shirt, or if her skirt went to her knee rather than below it. (Egad! Knees!! I can’t handle it…I have no self control!!) Even if you notice, and even if you can’t be professional enough to put sexual thoughts aside, I would expect that you can DO YOUR JOB and determine a case on it’s merits. Please, this entire conversation it totally ridiculous. I can’t believe we need to even read this garbage in 2014.

  84. Yup, BT. I just went back and read the post again and RGK *did* say “True story”…and 6 hours after you pointed that out, the article *still* says “True story”. I find that disconcerting, to say the least. And it gives me pause about the veracity of the rest of his claim(s). How sad.

  85. Maybe the answer is to stop ignoring male offenders. No rumpled clothing, windswept hair, unshaven bald spots, pit stains. Expect makeup to conceal uneven skin tone, concealer for undereye bags…Sounds like the only solution to me.

  86. Yes and maybe they should start wearing more supportive underwear to meet a higher standard of male beauty. We should judge the pot bellies and wrinkles and their teeth. They should have perfect white smiles and should in fact smile more often bc it’s more appealing, more masculine and women react better to pretty friendly looking men 🙂

  87. But they can’t be too appealing or judges will be unfair and ignore their legal argument bc they will be distracted by their sexual desire or jealousy and they aren’t responsible for that. It’s the men’s fault for being too appealing.

  88. “Women” is a noun, not an adjective. There are no “women lawyers” and no “men lawyers”. There are female lawyers and male lawyers. My, how political correctness has screwed up the English language.

    Furthermore…why would a female lawyer equate “professional” with “sexual”? Why would dressing “professionally” mean dressing in a sexual manner, exposing one’s breasts, wearing see-through blouses, and wearing short, butt-hugging skirts? When men dress professionally, they do not expose or flaunt their sexual parts.

  89. Le sigh. Because we haven’t sexualized male bodies as we have female bodies. And we don’t judge them in this way. When men wear shoulder pads we aren’t offended. When they wear dress shirts that are cut to fit their chest and waist we aren’t blogging about it. It’s the same thing. But treated differently.

  90. My two cents: Judge, I am a male partner at a big law firm outside the U.S. When an associate dresses “flashy”, the partner in me disapproves but it is person(lly) appreciated. Come appraisal time it is the the general nebulous sense of partner disapproval that is remembered and has a bearing. Your point is no less true because of your position and I can only admire the thought process (actually improving the likelihood of success for a female attorney at your own cost and expense) that led you to make it knowing the likely fallout that would ensue.

  91. The continuing comments here are pretty entertaining, especially when reviewing Judge Kopf’s three suggested rules.

    The first merely points out how men’s brains work. It is a facet of human nature which never changes. Those facets are masked usually; which is one of the main purposes of society and its standards but it is still only a mask.
    One way they are masked is by seemingly earnest men sounding all outraged by “sexist” statements like acknowledging how men think. To the more naive women this sounds like an enlightened Modern Man while the rest of us men know it is merely a particularly creepy schtick for sounding more sympathetic to women so they are more likely to go out with you.
    Yes ladies, even men who cry on cue, watch Girls with you and pretend to enjoy eating vegan are pigs and prudes; they’re just better or, more accurately, more dishonest fakes.

    The second is largely ignored but is the most important. You’re there to represent your client, period. You may not like the way the world is but you have no right to endanger by one iota your client’s interests because you don’t think it’s fair that men might ogle you or many women don’t particularly like attractive women dressing provocatively.
    And let’s face it this is only about attractive women. Nobody cares if a bumbling, dumpy old male OR female attorney comes in wearing a rumpled, wrinkled suit or skirt just so long as nothing comes untucked or unbuttoned on either one of them.
    And anyone who can’t grasp the difference between concealed, fake shoulder pads and real [whether enhanced or not] exposed boobs or thighs is either being purposely obtuse or is too stupid to be representing anyone.

    Lastly, to express disbelief or shock that many, probably most adult women [not just grade schoolers] resent or judge attractive women who they feel are dressing inappropriately is simply not credible. No one is that stupid or naive; of course they do.
    My wife always dressed modestly, was never flirtatious but was extremely attractive. Even a dope as oblivious as I am could see the claws flexing, especially among married women around her. I have sat in courtrooms minding my own business listening to clerks commenting on particularly sleek and/or provocatively dressed female attorneys, and it isn’t complimentary and I’ve listened to court reporters doing the same thing. It’s especially galling to women who strive for professionalism and to be taken seriously for their skills when it appears another woman is not.

    Judge Knopf is presenting human nature as it is and always has been. He is arguing for some simple, not particularly onerous standards to prevent that human nature from involving itself in the courtroom. Many facets of human nature are unfortunate and all the snooty lectures about how someone should ignore it or how the immutable should be altered reveals a person at war with an unyielding reality, which is why so many such people are always so angry and unhappy. There’s nothing more irritating than a reality that refuses to remake itself in your image.
    Most people learn this by grammar school and are the ones who aren’t too angry and are about as happy as is possible in a world full of humans.
    As the judge says, get over it.

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  93. what personal cost are you talking about he’s a federal judge at the end of his career who made up a fake female character that other female lawyers supposedly gossip about and disprove of for dressing scandalously in court and tried to pass it all off as a true, not exaggerated story. which thought process did you admire, the part where he specifies very short skirt/ample chest, or how he acts like judges can’t remove people who are actually dressed inappropriately to court? you blow smoke up his ass as though he’s a decent, responsible, or trustworthy public servant who did a cost/benefit analysis before publishing an important treatise and not an unremarkable product of cronyism with a weird blog put in charge of people’s lives and fates by the same man who tried to get harriet myers on the supreme court. there’s perverts scouring the internet trying to dig up an imaginary woman and for what? to expose a young person trying to mind her own business because an old WASP who said she does great work is both troubled and appreciative of her – to use your childlike description – ‘flashy’ appearance. his equally old friend dick unabashedly said ‘the grapevine will take care of it’ re identity of nonexistent female attorney while gently suggesting this fool hide his backwards feelings from the public. people in the workplace who make a big deal about outward appearances over legitimacy do so because of their own weaknesses and lack of merits. the only ignorant slut in the story is the self-proclaimed dirty old man behind it.

  94. “You can’t win. Men are both pigs and prudes. Get over it.”

    Please. Speak for yourself. I’m not a pig, and I’m certainly not a prude. – A man.

  95. I want you to ask yourself this: would a man, judge or lawyer, NOT be held in contempt for wearing anything more revealing than a full suit that covers him neck to wrist and to ankle? Stop being a hypocrite!

  96. Judge,

    You promote a grotesque and unjust double standard. On the one hand, you are wagging a finger at young female lawyers who show more skin than you deem professional. On the other hand, you seem to have no qualms whatsoever about overtly displaying *your* sexuality for the world to see. Why do you believe it is okay for you — as a professional semi-public figure in a powerful position – to flaunt the fact that you are a “dirty old man” who ogles female attorneys from the bench, but not okay for a female attorney to have a hemline that’s a bit shorter than standard?
    Do you not also have a responsibility to meet standards of decorum, or do you view yourself as exempt by virtue of your greater social power, both as a man and as a judge?

    Regards, Eve

  97. I am a female attorney – practicing for 30 years – and, I am shocked at the lack of professionalism in dress occasionally displayed by younger female attorneys. If you want to convince a court of your argument, don’t wear clothing that merely convinces the court that you are sexy and attractive. If you want to have authority over your client and bill $600 an hour; you have to look like a lawyer; speak like a lawyer and look like a lawyer. Why should someone entrust their economic well-being or their very freedom in someone who is dressed inappropriately? Inappropriate dress may undermine your success with the case. Why should someone be made partner when their unprofessional appearance may push away clients, cases, and judges?

    This aberrant behavior is a product of a society that exalts “self-expression” and “me” rather than the obligations we have to one another. Lawyers have obligations to their clients, to their partners, and to the courts which supersede whatever need they have to exhibit their secondary sexual characteristics.

  98. Perhaps the judge should reread his own piece and note that the sexism and demeaning tone used does not make a great point at all.

    “she wears very short skirts and shows lots of her ample chest. I especially appreciate the last two attributes.”

    Your point, was made in the most sexist, horrible way possible, and demeans your court.

  99. Many years ago my wife would help female jail inmate get clothing that was appropriate to wear in court. It seems to me that not much has changed for the accused so why is it different for the lawyers?

  100. Maybe he felt that expressing the idea that old men would be leering at them would be enough to scare the women into dressing appropriately.

  101. Many years ago my wife would exchange clothing of female jail inmates for clothing that was appropriate for court. I doubt that anything has changed for defendants so why is what attorneys wear a problem today?

  102. Women try to conceal negative aspects of their nature as well. Such as their jealousy, competitiveness, and intense hatred for others. Just kidding (or am I?). And they’re also not very good at it at times.

    People don’t think bumbling, dumpy men are disgusting and even creepy? Maybe men don’t care. Maybe women are lulled into a false sense of security thinking that those type of men won’t judge them as harshly for their appearance…until they hear them talk.

    I suppose that perhaps men in the courtroom would prefer aging women remain dumpy and not try to look attractive (because they can never compete with younger counterparts and they can look desperate and especially haggish for trying). But a man can still be lured/affected by a plain woman who is dressed a certain way. Maybe not a successful, strong, true alpha male, but some others…

  103. All of that would make life a nicer place. But I wouldn’t go so far as to say it would make them too appealing. If you are a homely enough man to need that in the first place, it’s not going to suddenly make you sexy.

  104. And yes, hating people and cruel gossip is probably just as fun for women as luring at women is for men.

  105. Yes, clearly, by noting that failure to follow accepted standards of decorum may result in one not being taken seriously, JCR was arguing that you should cut off your breasts. That is very perceptive of you. Please advise when you have followed through on this astute observation.

  106. To be honest, I find his look on things quite a realistic one. Men _are_ pigs, and how much I try not to stare at students that like to feel a breeze on a hot summer day, I can’t always control my eyes. Not that it will affect their score, but it will affect the concentration with which I listen to them when taking an exam.

    The judge here comes across as a man like most men I know. Men look, meaning no harm, but with unconscious judgements that are hard to battle. Many psychological experiments have proven this.

    Note that the judge doesn’t blame the women for it, he blames men. He just points out to women that you might take that into account when coming to court. And rightfully adds that the toughest judges for women are other women. That’s a true story.

  107. It’s not about the patterned blouse. If a 28-year old male lawyer with a nice muscle tone and a dazzling smile shows up in bermuda and his shirt buttoned open until halfway his chest, quite some female judges will be distracted too. But everybody would think that his dressing is, however fashionable, quite inappropriate for the occasion.

    Likewise, I don’t mind seeing a ton of leg and cleavage. But it’s an objective fact that these things are, however fashionable, quite distracting. One shouldn’t have to worry about it. Like one shouldn’t have to worry about being robbed, but that’s not a valid reason to drop your guard in certain neighbourhoods at certain hours…

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  109. So men are base animals, then? They are incapable of controlling their reactions because, what, they don’t have the mental capacity? Women notice a sexy man, yet we’re perfectly capable of controlling our reactions. You seem to have quite the low opinion of men if you think they can’t control their libidos.

    People need to decide if they want to let someone else’s appearance distract them from more important matters. It’s their choice. End of story.

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  112. Men should put their penises in chastity belts. It’s not our responsibility to fix what’s wrong with men. Do it yourself.

  113. You say you have “been a dirty old man ever since I was a very young man. Except, that is, when it comes to my daughters (and other young women that I care deeply about).” And you say of a “very pretty female lawyer” who practices in your court. “She is brilliant, she writes well, she speaks eloquently, she is zealous but not overly so, she is always prepared, she treats others, including her opponents, with civility and respect, she wears very short skirts and shows lots of her ample chest. I especially appreciate the last two attributes.”

    So let me get this straight judge…. pretty much any woman you are not biologically related to and/or actually CARE about, no matter how intelligent or accomplished she may be, is nothing more to you than a pair of legs and tits. You, “Sir” are a fucking scumbag.

  114. You also say:
    From the foregoing, and in my continuing effort to educate the bar, I have three rules that young women lawyers should follow when considering how to dress for court:

    1. You can’t win. Men are both pigs and prudes. Get over it.

    Oh so you think this is perfectly okay. This ALSO lets me know that you are, as already noted, a scumbag. Thankfully, not ALL men are both pigs and prudes. Just “men” like you. You know, MEN who think they are in a position to make “rules” for WOMEN. Jerk.

  115. You could have bid up a “no trump” hand and went all Mighty Quinn on us Judge while sluffing off some Manfred Mann and getting picked off.

    Nicely played though letting Dylan lay in wait to round everything out through the hand.

    For some reason or another I think (please correct me if I am wrong) the in house edit played out in-between a few tricks though. Not exactly cheating. Table talk editing is legit and legal according to the Hoyles Midwestern Version which I subscribe to on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays while the intertubes are allowed in the household.

    It could just be me but I think in the OP, I recall something along the lines of judges are human just like everyone else or something like that (this was perfect initial bait imho. You should have left that in to run the table and taken ever trick as well as generating more interesting hate mail).

    There might also have been the removal of an f-word (my memory is not what it used to be though), that was perfectly suited to the context where it landed, non sexual just as the post. That was overly conservative editing for clarity as well perhaps.

    Anyway, Keep Stayin’ Alive and keep on Blawing Judge!

    P.S. I was going to go with some Cohen in conclusion via Sisters of Mercy but I thought that might wind up a few members of your readership.

    OK, I will edit it in (just because I haven’t read your rules)

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  117. Why did anyone allow you to be a judge? You are the very opposite of professional. If only you valued the other women of the world half as much as you claim to value your daughters. Try to remember that we are all someone’s daughter.

  118. There are so many things wrong with this post. First, who assigned you the task of dress code disciplinarian? Must you shame your own daughter first in front of a wedding ceremony and now on the internet? I am sure the ‘ignorant slut’ lawyer does not give a damn what you think and didn’t request the peanut gallery to come into the court room and approve her attire. Are you a judge or one of the hosts of ‘What Not To Wear’? Surely you have better things to do. It is not an excuse to call your gender prudes and pigs, and that us women should just deal with it. A) Because of men who like yourself are so high on your own horse, we have to use every resource in our arsenal to be heard. and B) You pick out your own tacky 80’s tie and glasses and let us worry about our own fashion.

  119. Elementary logic point #1: Saying “X is not appropriate in this context” is not at all the same as saying “People should be ashamed of X”. I am not ashamed of the fact that I enjoy good food. But I don’t think it would be appropriate to bring a sandwich to a job interview and munch on it in front of the interviewer. I am not ashamed of the fact that I am capable of singing. But I don’t think it would be appropriate to jump up in the middle of a eulogy at a funeral and start singing pop tunes at the top of my lungs. Likewise, I don’t think a woman should be ashamed of her body or the fact that men find it sexy and appealing. But that does not mean that showing it off in a courtroom is appropriate. The purpose of a court of law is supposed to be to examine the facts of a case and decide if the defendant is guilty, not to get dates for his lawyer or satisfy her exhibitionist fantasies.

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  121. “about how their dicks go crazy when they (*gasp*) glimpse the ladies’ cleavage… and of course this is all the fault of the ladies, those poor innocent dicks just can’t help themselves! ” Despite your crude language, may I point out that that statement is absolutely true. I mean the words are true, not the lesson you want to draw from them.

    If a hungry person sees food, he is likely to start salivating and his stomach may start grumbling. He cannot stop this no matter how much he wants to. It is a natural physical reaction. So if you know you are about to walk through a room full of hungry people, and you don’t want them salivating and having rumbling stomachs, which is the more viable strategy: (a) Walk thru the room carrying a plate of steaming, delicious-looking food, and order them all not to salivate; or (b) Keep the food tucked away in a container where no one can see it or smell it?

    Likewise, given that it is a fact of nature that men are aroused by the sight of female bodies, which is the more productive way to avoid lustful looks and thoughts? (a) Order the men not to notice when you walk in front of them in revealing clothes? or (b) Don’t wear revealing clothes when you don’t want men to view you lustfully?

    Really, what are you defending here? The right to dress like a prostitute in a court room? Why would you WANT to dress like that, unless your goal is to have men notice your body and be attracted to it? Your position appears to be that you want to go out of your way to present yourself as an object of sexual desire, and then you want no one to notice.

  122. Sorry. I didn’t realize that someone like you couldn’t understand that what I was saying was in response to John’s comment about “if you show up in court with your tits on display”.

    Like it or not, women have breasts. We just do. And they tend to “stick out”. Particularly when we have an “ample chest”. Even when we’re wearing dark clothing and jackets and other apparent “accepted standards of decorum”. It’s just a fact of life.

    (You know what else is a fact of life? Men tend to notice them. And there’s nothing we can do about it…so it might be time for men like the Judge and John…and you…to get over it yourselves!”)

  123. Yup! The people who have to “get over it” are the men and women who apparently don’t realize that women’s “tits” stick out, particularly those women with ample chests, no matter how darned much “decorum” they observe.

    Some men will stare. Some women will scowl. But showing a bit of “cleavage” or some “extra” thigh does NOT make a woman attorney a slut…or even make her APPEAR like a slut. Many of us learned the ability to “don’t judge a book by its cover” a VERY long time ago. The rest of us NEED to learn it!!!

  124. Jay,

    My mother worked at a country club as a waitress for a bit while she decided if she wanted to pursue a career as a chef. Note that she had served many years as head nurse at a busy NYC hospital, raised three children, and then decided she might try something she had a passion for and decided to start from the bottom and work her way up. She dresses conservatively and is quite familiar with decorum. The uniform was a collared button up shirt, something like the shirts men wear to work. She left only the top button, the tie button, unbuttoned, and some of the older patrons complained that she was being too revealing. She doesn’t have a large bust and was literally showing nothing more than her neck. I think most of us would not find her display revealing at all. My point there is that what one person thinks is too revealing may not actually be.

    Plus, I do not feel I can trust this judge’s opinion after he has already admitted that men are “pigs and prudes,” that the only women for whom he shows legitimate respect are those in his own family over whom he has control, and he’s a “dirty old man.”

    Furthermore, as much as I hate to say it, there is a legitimate chance that these women are simply being catty and say nasty things about the pretty woman because they don’t like her, are jealous of her success, or are even just unhappy that she really doesn’t give a damn what they’re squabbling about. When Queen B slides down the food chain, things can get ugly. They may do anything in their power to get the intruder fired. I’ve seen it happen more than once. My guess is that she isn’t coming in to work in corset tops and booty shorts, which would be inappropriate for the courtroom. If these people really have taken issue with this woman’s dress, then they should seek the company’s dress code policy and outline for her the ways in which it is being breached. If it isn’t, then she should be allowed to dress as she is without being belittled for her choices. Making spectacles of people by forming groups to snicker and stare at them as they work or writing perverted posts about them online is not an appropriate way to deal with what is otherwise a teachable moment. As a matter of fact, that, along with this judge’s lascivious comments, would make a fair harassment case.

    Regardless of her dress, though, I feel that women should have the right to dress as they believe is appropriate for the situation. If this woman is great at her job, has the right disposition, and is respectful to and respected by clients, I don’t see what it matters what she puts on her body. The problem is in the viewer more so than the wearer. Your position is akin to those who say women who wear revealing clothing are just asking to be raped.

    And something you fail to consider…. women have sex drives, too, and yet, no one sits there and talks negatively about a man in skinny pants being too revealing. No one would dare say a buff man who wears a work shirt that is tight to his muscled body is “dressing like a stripper” or is trying to attract to the lustful attentions of women. So either you think straight women are blind, or you accept the fact that people can act professionals and control their wandering eyes. And let’s be serious here, noticing someone is attractive is very different than drooling over that person. If you cannot control your urges as a male, then that says you are weak-minded person, not that the woman has done something inappropriate. In this case, as in many others, men are allowed to be powerful and sexual. Women are torn down for being the same. And that, my friend, is sexism.

    Finally, as a woman, I am positive that the nights that I choose to wear more revealing clothing do not make me any less intelligent or capable of performing my job with precision. And being that I’m quite happily in a relationship and am fervently against cheating, when I dress in revealing clothing to go out, it actually has nothing to do with men viewing me lustfully. I actually could care less if there was not a single male in the room. It is the clothing I feel best complements my shape and that I feel most confident in. I enjoy fashion. This is the case for many women. Most women actually do not dress for men.

    Because you’re so chauvinist, you think women’s whole worlds and all of our decisions revolve around men. That shows how very little you really think of women. That ridiculous narrow-minded view serves to color all of your actions and judgments.

  125. I think you underestimate exactly how easy it is for a woman to find herself wearing clothing that someone could consider sexually provocative. For example, when you criticize “short, butt-hugging skirts,” you are pretty much describing how a standard pencil skirt, the staple of a lawyerly skirt suit, looks on a curvy woman.

    Furthermore, a number of women are told explicitly that it is more professional to wear skirt suits than it is to wear pant suits. I can tell you that generic, mainstream stores frequented by a number of lawyers (e.g., Banana Republic) sell skirt suits that hit several inches above the knee. Skirts that fall below the knee are hard to find and often look frumpy (also considered unprofessional). Yet, if you wear skirt suits you may be criticized for “flaunt[ing] their sexual parts.”

    Men just don’t have to face the same choices as women do.

  126. Everyone sluffs off and opens their hand after the ninth trick right?

    I guess not.

    Your back yard.

  127. Hold on tight Judge, the music is nearly always past there with few exceptions.

    I apologize for the trespass. Thank you.

    Peace and Enjoy,


  128. There isn’t anything wrong with the point he was making. It was how it was done that reveals a very sexist ideology behind why he made it.

    I have to wonder if that sexist ideology that made him say it in that manner makes me wonder if it has influenced his decisions now. Especially with regard to women defendants, and especially if the case concerning sexual harassment or rape.

    It shows he has clear sympathies for the sexual harasser or even a rapist if a women dresses a certain way. So this isn’t a small concern.

  129. The judge’s attitude here comes down to a “she was asking for it” type of attitude that is really quite scary that he could be presiding over cases where that attitude could affect the outcome.

  130. Is there no medium between a burqa and an unbuttoned blouse? This isn’t a fight about the rights of women – or if it is it’s completely misguided. You’ll notice that men also conform to a dress code, not only in the courtroom, but all aspects of life. Imagine if a male lawyer came to court wearing a cod piece. It’s a ridiculous notion.

  131. 1) We are all ‘base’ animals.
    2) Neither men nor women can control hormonal responses via ‘mental capacity’ (a complete misunderstanding of biology).
    3) Controlling one’s libido is not the same as not being distracted.
    4) Biology isn’t a choice, but one’s dress is.

    If this seems pedantic it’s because your points ignore the fundamentals of the endocrine system.

  132. I really do think that he was just trying to make a point. Dressing up the blog a little. Plus my grandma used to use that sort of tactic to teach me things. It’s old fashioned.

    But of course he was being honest. Any man would think that.

  133. The modern idea that we are all free to float through life without any sense of self-awareness is a little misguided in my opinion.

    So you are saying that you never judge anyone for their appearance? How they choose to present themselves? When it is perfectly within their control?

  134. C’mon RGK, you can do better than that. How about a genuine response to MRose… How very gallant of you to apologise for “giving” someone offense. MRose brings up interesting points about projection, your assumptions… surely you can invest some time in a more measured response?

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  136. Female retired trial lawyer/law professor here, and I’ve got your back on this one, Judge, particularly your rule 2. “It is not about you. That goes double when you are appearing in front of a jury.” Working in ITAP programs with law students who were self-conscious and nervous about addressing either a judge or jury, I counseled them to focus on the story they had to tell on behalf of their client and to truly care about the impact the outcome would have for their client. My exact words were, “It’s not about you, it’s about your client.” The lawyer who projects that he or she actually believes in the client, and cares about the client is at a distinct advantage in persuading the finder of fact to rule in their favor. (For the ITAP programs, I got real judges from state, federal and Navy JAG for each of my students’ mock trials; and every student had a 6 person jury composed of community volunteers from various churches, community groups, etc., – balanced by race, sex & age. I had the law school donate $5 an hour to the various groups for each juror’s time. I trained a group of Brownie scouts to be child accident victims in one trial scenario. In others I got real policemen, doctors, first responders, even an architect to serve as expert witnesses. And finally, on one jury, I included a deaf juror, so we had a sign-language interpreter; and on another I had a blind juror with a seeing eye dog. The biggest benefit, I think, for the students, was that they got to listen to the jury deliberations; the judges also liked to listen in – a rare opportunity.)

    As to courtroom dress, I told both men and women students, you want others to focus on what you’re saying, not how you appear. I often represented one of multiple defendants in complex cases, where the ultimate question was dividing up liability and settlement percentages. I was typically the only female attorney in the bunch. First I had to “dazzle” them with my legal skills – defending my clients in their depositions, well reasoned arguments in my briefs, etc.; second, I had to make sure they respected my ability to deal with the judge or jury if we went to trial, which involved in part, calling the various bluffs they tried on new and/or female attorneys. Hey, I’ve been married & have sons – in my pre-law life I was a psych grad student who held a three year National Institute of Mental Health research fellowship. In non-technical terms, most men are hard-wired when it comes to involuntary response to sexual dress or behavior.

    Male judges may be turned on by a female attorney’s sexy behavior or dress but, not wanting to be reversed, are going to rule on the legal merits of an argument. So women should want the judges to be LISTENING, not lusting. Keep that blood supply flowing to the brain, you know? What about juries? Well the male members may be turned on and influenced by cleavage, but the female members are more likely to be offended. The same principle of NON sexy dress holds with parties and witnesses – I was always careful to review with them how they would be dressed in court. I still recall a case I had against the lawyer who had taught me trial advocacy in law school. He represented a 12 year old girl who had been thrown to the floor of the family car when her mom’s car was hit from behind. She was claiming back injury, backed up by one chiropractor. She appeared in court everyday wearing lots of makeup, fishnet stockings, miniskirts and high heels (with a bad back?). During recess, she was out in the hallway (in view of jurors on the way to the restrooms) making out with one or the other of her two boyfriends. Her attorney turned down a $30,000 settlement; the jury awarded $500.

    Now that I’m retired, I’ve been watching a lot of law-themed TV series and a pet peeve of mine, starting with Judging Amy, is the trend for women law enforcement officers, attorneys – whether private or govt., and even an occasional judge – to appear on the job or in court in tight fitting tops with plenty of cleavage, and hair styles which look like they’re on their way to a second job as pole dancers or hookers. Their male counterparts are wearing sports coats or suits – or a standard dress shirt with sleeves rolled up. I have yet to see a male judge character wearing a robe which showed the top 6 inches of his bare chest. The women cops I know would never wear those hair styles because, as one commented to me, a perp could grab your hair and jerk you off balance and you’re in big trouble.
    Best regards, Judge. I’m looking forward to following your blog.

  137. Or, they recognize (and rightly so) that a very significant amount of communication between humans is non-verbal and that what they wear and how they stand, sit, and move can be at least as persuasive on certain issues as the words that come out of their mouth.

  138. As I cannot comment on the motivations of female attorneys in choosing their dress I will refrain from doing so. I do however think you are giving many male lawyers too little credit when making clothing decisions. A couple of examples:

    I once was involved in a case with 8 co-defendants who had been charged with partaking in a conspiracy to rob and murder a cartel drug mule. My client was arguably the least culpable of the bunch for a number of reasons. Several other members of the group had also engaged in a kidnapping and murder for hire during the same time period and this evidence would be introduced at trial. The defendants were to be tried together and evidence of the crimes was quite strong.

    How then to effectively defend the client? We needed to show how different he was than the rest of the bunch. It wouldn’t be fair to treat him the same as all these real “bad guys.” They had long criminal records. He had none. They had many tattoos that would be visible to the jury. He didn’t. We carefully chose a new hairstyle for him that didn’t look like a Chicano gang banger on Law and Order. They kept theirs short and tight or shaved.

    They all had excellent defense attorneys who we knew would all show up day after day in perfectly pressed $1000 suits, immaculately shined shoes, ties knotted in huge double windsor knots, and expensive watches on their wrists. They had $500 haircuts, big wedding rings, and silk pocket squares. You wouldn’t see them wearing the same thing twice for at least the first two weeks of trial.

    Our client was different so we were different. The jury would know we were different before we ever opened our mouths for the first time. We would show up in off the rack suits that obviously cost less than the other attorneys’ hair cuts. We would rotate between three suits and a few generic shirts. We balled our suit coats up and threw them in the trunk for the ride to the courthouse. We banged our shoes on curbs to scuff them. We bought digital timex watches at Walmart, wore button down collars and tied our ties with four-in-hand knots. We didn’t have cuff links or tie bars. My wedding ring has small diamonds in it and I spun it around where no one would see anything but solid metal.

    We spent an immense amount of time planning our appearance and our client’s appearance. We wanted to speak to the jury and tell our story without even having to open our mouths.

    Another example: As a southern attorney I want my juries to think that I am “one of them” in every way possible. This is especially effective when the prosecutor is a “damn Yankee” with a New York accent and attitude.

    I use my accent to full effect. Some local slang may slip into my vocabulary. I will wear seersucker and cotton suits. I will rock a paisley bow tie with pride. Button down Oxford shirts and saddle shoes are common. Too much of these things and you look like Colonel Sanders. But, men send just as many messages with what they wear and how they wear it as women do. And you better believe we think about it.

  139. Dear Judge:
    I’ll admit it: when I first read this story I was surprised that a sitting federal judge would make such comments. But, on reflection, this discussion has, at the very least, opened up a healthy debate about this topic. I hope this discussion and your blog continue.
    As a full-time Administrative Law Judge for a state agency, I have seen attorneys appear before me while dressed inappropriately. I do not hesitate to privately insist on a change in attire. Ours is a great profession that demands the best of us at all times; a professional appearance is part of the price we all pay for the privilege of being in the legal profession (and women lawyers need not be held to a different standard in this regard).
    Finally, as to your illness, I wish both you and your family all the best. This struggle is one that I know you will win.
    Robert T.
    New York City

  140. Wow. I’m not a lawyer and it’s enlightening to learn that the legal profession is the bastion of the most backward and antisocial attitudes I’ve seen in years. It’s as if male lawyers have all just migrated to this century directly from the middle of the last.
    It amuses me particularly that, in the midst of an irrational diatribe about the weak little minds of judges being distracted by boobies, Southern Law Student repeatedly tries to assert that the courts in our country are terribly serious and strictly concerned with logic. I guess not, if the men are such flaky dumbasses!
    You’ve all succeeded in making a public fool of your profession. Congrats.

  141. One button undone on a blouse does not make it “revealing”. The problem is often in the eye of the beholder…and some people tend to overreact to the most minor of things.

    As far as men conforming to dress codes? Sorry, but men aren’t criticized for not covering their arms (for example, they can take of their jackets and roll up their sleeves and even loosen their ties without it being considered “revealing” or “disrespectful” or “distracting”). My gosh, many men can work with no shirt on whatsoever! There *is* a double standard.

    (Oh, and I was being sarcastic my response to John. Sorry that apparently wasn’t as obvious as I thought it was.)

  142. Even assuming this female lawyer’s attire had the surfeit of hubba-liciousness described here, and even as a male lawyer (and you’d be correct to presume also a dirty-minded one), I still find this post pretty outrageous. It seems a deliberate and potentially debilitating public humiliation of what sounds like an easily identifiable person (and possibly even a bona-fide catcall) that could have easily been avoided with a private email or a quick conference in chambers (with the door open and maybe a female bailiff present). Sure, lawyers need be tough, but this strikes me as unbecoming brutality. A not entirely related aside: maybe this is my prejudice from practicing solely in rural state courts with an overwhelmingly blue-collar traffic even on the civil side, where clients put an absolute premium on the class and polish you can (hopefully) bring to their causes, but I found it intriguing that this post (and the several articles that prompted it and responded to it) are all about how the lawyer should or shouldn’t be free to present herself, how the judge views the lawyer, how the jury views the lawyer (important, I’ll grant), even how the female law clerks view the lawyer, and not a word of consideration about how clients want to be reflected when facing the reality of government power operating on their lives. Perhaps this is not as central a concern to the federal bar? It certainly seems plausible that any given federal litigant has proportionately less to lose on any given court date, but something still seems out of whack about the terms of this debate.

  143. Please. Men have spoken like this openly in every office I’ve ever been in. What are you, a Master’s candidate/stay-at-home mom?

  144. Truth of the matter is, if Richard was truly concerned about preserving decorum and doing this woman a favor, he would have done it discreetly and with class. He is simply promoting being a pig and how us women should just deal with it (and dress like a nun accordingly.) If a woman is curvy she is going to fill out a skirt or blouse in a way that elicits this biological reaction to men that they seemingly can’t control. If she wears a Moo-Moo to court she is going to be accused of being frumpy and outdated. There is no winning situation here.

    Women are biologically attracted to features on men too, yet we are expected to manage said reactions. Men can control themselves too. Next you will be asking women with pretty faces to wear bags over their heads. (And how about you older male lawyers with beer guts barely contained by the buttons on your shirt? Is it okay to demand you wear larger shirts as to not elicit my reaction of vomiting?)

  145. And I also enjoy how he’s taking the big consensus from a group of bored female law clerks- certainly the catty gossiping experts on how all women should dress.

  146. But the truth is that he’s NOT taking a “consensus from a group of bored female law clerks”. His “True story”??? It was *NOT* a true story. He made it up!!! (Which he finally admitted to in the comments…as if everyone was going to wade through them all to learn that.)

    And now countless female law clerks are being maligned by readers here based on his deliberate FALSEHOOD…which he excuses as “literally license”…even though he actually LIED when he said “true story”. Then proceeded to malign all the women in his story.

    He’s a judge. He ought to know better.

  147. I appreciate your candid post. You have made a fatal error, however. Men (apparently) shouldn’t express their opinions about women (especially on the internet). Doing so would be sexist and a horde of females will mercilessly attack your character on the internet. I suggest a three part plan to rehabilitate your image:

    1) Get a sex change.
    2 Re-post the same article but delete/edit the parts relating to being a man
    3) Glory in the tidal wave of female support you receive


    Keith Dornan

  148. No one addresses the question of whether this issue is cultural or universal – I suspect much of it is cultural but as a foreigner and outlier, I won’t visit it. There is a simple solution to the dilemma of “pigs” on the bench – more women judges. We can be fairly certain that their brains will not become bloodless by peering at high heels and peeking up pantiless skirts.

  149. Federal district court judges write blogs? Like this?

    All the bar in Maryland wants to talk to a young lawyer about is civility and promoting the professionalism of the bar. There is, my friends, a disconnect in this world.

    Clearly, this post is by a human being. A judge. A man. We’re going to have to come to grips with the fact that we get all of a person nowadays. No more pretending a robe puts you above repute (if we ever did).

    My personal belief is the post is completely inappropriate. That said, I’m glad it’s out there. Judges are people. Let us not pretend they are not. And as none of us is God (that I’m aware of), “judge not lest ye be judged.”

    Not knowing the man, I wonder if this is something the judge remembers when he does all his judging.

  150. NP,

    Well, I don’t want to bore everyone by going over your long post point by point. But to hit some high points:

    “My point there is that what one person thinks is too revealing may not actually be.” Sure. Without more detailed descriptions or photos, I can’t say if I agree that this woman’s dress was inappropriate or not.

    ” My guess is that she isn’t coming in to work in corset tops and booty shorts, which would be inappropriate for the courtroom.” So right there it sounds to me like you have conceded the judge’s point 100%. There are some outfits that are inappropriate in the courtroom. So the question is not, Did this particular woman on this particular day wear inappropriate clothing? But, Is there some standard that women should adhere to? You and I and the judge all agree that the answer to the second question is “yes”. As you and I have not seen the outfit that the judge considered inappropriate, we have no way of knowing if we consider that outfit over the line or not. So there’s no way either of us could say whether we agree with the judge on that particular instance or not.

    “… much as I hate to say it, there is a legitimate chance that these women are simply being catty and say nasty things about the pretty woman because they don’t like her, are jealous of her success …” If a man said that, that would be considered a wildly sexist comment.

    “If these people really have taken issue with this woman’s dress, then they should seek the company’s dress code policy and outline for her the ways in which it is being breached. If it isn’t, then she should be allowed to dress as she is without being belittled for her choices.” (Well, here we’re talking about a courtroom, not a company, I think you lost track of the subject under discussion. But anyway …) So you’re saying that if someone wrote some rules down on a piece of paper, then that would make those rules good and right, and no one should dare question them? If this judge has the authority to write a dress code for his courtroom, and he established a dress code embodying exactly the same ideas that he expressed in this post, would your objections then all evaporate? I’m sorry, but I don’t think there’s anything magic about ink and paper. I think it’s very reasonable to say, “This court’s (or this company’s) dress code is too restrictive” or “… is not restrictive enough.” The judge’s whole point appears to me to be what the dress code for lawyers OUGHT to be, whether written or unwritten. When someone says, “I think the dress code should prohibit mini-skirts”, it is incoherent to reply, “No, you’re wrong, the dress code doesn’t prohibit min-skirts.” The point isn’t what it IS, but what it SHOULD BE.

    “Regardless of her dress, though, I feel that women should have the right to dress as they believe is appropriate for the situation.” Now wait, just a moment ago you said that a corset and booty shorts would not be appropriate to a courtroom. So if one particular woman lawyer decided that this is what she wants to wear in the courtroom, would you say that it’s perfectly okay for her to do that? Or not. Before I can reply to your position, you really need to decide what it is. Is it acceptable and appropriate for a woman lawyer to wear literally WHATEVER she wants to court — including corset tops and booty shorts — or not?

    “Your position is akin to those who say women who wear revealing clothing are just asking to be raped.” No, but if a woman goes to a crack house or a rough bar where gang members are known to hang out, and she wears revealing clothes and goes home with the toughest-looking one of the lot, and he assaults her, I think it is fair to say that her actions were very foolish. Did she “deserve” to be assaulted? No. Should he escape prosecution? No. But if she had used a little intelligence she could have avoided the problem. If you want to call that “blaming the victim”, then yes, I blame the victim. If you put your life savings in a clear plastic bag and leave it on a bench in the park, and then when you come back to check on your money a week later it’s gone, I’d say exactly the same thing. You didn’t “deserve” to be robbed, but your actions were so foolish that I have difficulty feeling very sorry for you.

    “No one would dare say a buff man who wears a work shirt that is tight to his muscled body is “dressing like a stripper” or is trying to attract to the lustful attentions of women.” Umm, if a male lawyer showed up in court with no shirt on, I think everyone would say that he is not appropriately dressed. If a male lawyer wore tight clothes and was constantly flexing his muscles or otherwise showing off his body in front of a female judge or jurors, I think everyone would say that was inappropriate. But of course this is less of an issue with men than with women because men care a lot more about how women look physically then women care about how men look physically. Surely I am not the first person in history to make this observation. If you want to call honest recognition of differences between men and women “sexism”, then yes, I am a sexist.

    “Finally, as a woman, I am positive that the nights that I choose to wear more revealing clothing do not make me any less intelligent or capable of performing my job with precision.” Of course not. No one is saying that a woman can’t be pretty and sexy and also be a good lawyer. What we ARE saying is that displays of her sexuality are not appropriate in a courtroom.

  151. I wonder what it is that makes you think you are in a position to tell other people how to dress. I would guess that many women in partially revealing outfits in your presence don’t quite understand how a dirty old man sees the world. And perhaps if they knew, they’d feel pretty disgusted and want to wear a an abaya. And others still might continue to dress provocatively for some sense of power, even if that power comes coupled with being judged (by a judge or anybody else). If you find her dress inappropriate, is it not that you find the thoughts running through your head to be inappropriate? Maybe you’re the one who should focus on respecting all women (not just the ones you care deeply about), so that when you see an attractive woman in revealing clothing you can override your more basic of instincts and see that person with compassion instead of the passion of a dirty old man.

  152. A judge should not express inappropriate thoughts about, or give commands to, women on the internet. He is in the public eye, which means he should hold his words to a higher standard, and admitting that he ogles attractive attorneys while simultaneously shaming them for being attractive is indeed sexist.

    On top of the fact that you are trivializing the very real struggle faced by transgender and transsexual women, your “three part plan” remains ignorant about the reasons behind the backlash against the judge. Feminists like myself would reply the exact same way and criticize a female blogger for her comments about what women should and shouldn’t do. We didn’t come this far in fighting for gender equality just to have a woman tear another woman down.

  153. I don’t mind pedanticism, but at times it does cause one to miss one’s own errors.

    1) Base animals are “those which, though they may be reclaimed, are not Such that at common law a larceny may be committed of them, by reason of the baseness of their nature”. I am fairly certain that humans are not included in this definition.
    2) You’ll notice I did not say anything about hormonal responses — I merely said “reactions” — but perhaps I should have clarified. We are perfectly capable of controlling our urges and thoughts when such hormonal responses occur, so why can’t men?
    3) True, I will give you that.
    4) True as well, but it’s also one’s choice to allow another person’s dress to affect their ability to listen or make objective decisions.

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  155. Pingback: Jenny P Andrews | Rule for everyone everywhere: Wear what you want.

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