Please stop

I received a note today from a Nebraska lawyer.  I have the highest respect for him. He asks me to stop writing Hercules and the umpire. He believes I am doing more harm than good.  I asked if I could reprint his communication without his name.  He gave me permission to do so. Here it is:

Dear Judge Kopf,

Please excuse the liberty I am taking in sending this email; I trust that you will receive it in the spirit it was sent. I suspect that, on most topics but certainly on subjects such as the substance of this communication, judges hear from lawyers only what lawyers think judges want to hear. But I have concerns that rise above the desire to communicate only pleasantries and compel me to be, I am afraid, blunt.

I am deeply troubled when the judicial system you and I love, which I think is essential to our society, is harmed. I think blogging by judges harms our system significantly. I thought that you had decided some time ago to stop posting to Hercules and the Umpire. It is my sincere belief that you should.

As you know, justice is a horribly amorphous and ambiguous concept; the delivery of justice is a complicated, mysterious undertaking; and there are innumerable elements involved in efforts to achieve on the promise of delivering justice. But, in my 25 years as a lawyer, it is my inescapable conclusion that an important element, perhaps the most indispensible one, in our legal system’s ability to deliver justice is public trust in judges. In order for our system to work, the public must know that a judge will decide matters thoughtfully, impartially, respectfully, and on the merits. (I will refrain from further expounding upon the validity of the importance of public trust of judges as (1) if this premise is not something we can instinctively agree upon, the purpose of this communication cannot be met and (2) your “the SCOTUS should STFU” post seems to agree with this premise with the words “…all of us know from experience that appearances matter to the public’s acceptance of the law.”)

After painstaking and sincere thought, for I am sure you have considered essentially the same questions I have and reached a conclusion exactly contrary to mine, I am unable to understand how judicial thinking out loud can ever be a net plus on the scales of public trust and confidence in judges and, by extension, the law. It seems to me that such public naval gazing from a judge assumes even more potential negative weight when it takes the form of modern electronic communication prone to going viral if a member of the judiciary communicates on a controversial topic or in a controversial way.

There is little surprise in the level of attention drawn by, or the inevitable public reaction to, a federal trial judge, in a public forum, repeatedly using vulgarity including serial exercise of the f-word, apparently disclosing a fondness for looking up the skirts and down the blouses of female attorneys who appear before him, telling Congress to “go to hell”, and urging the SCOTUS to “stfu”. How does such attention and reaction create an appearance that assists the public’s acceptance of the law, help people trust judges, foster faith in our system, and advance the cause of the delivery of justice? If a judge cannot even restrain himself or herself, in a public forum, from using harsh profanity, engaging in course sexual comment, and being disrespectful of our country’s highest court – and seems incapable of exercising sufficient discernment to know when things should be left unsaid — how do we legitimately expect the public to trust a judge to make the critical decisions he or she is daily called upon to address? That seems far too long of a leap of faith to ask, much less to expect, the public to make. Are not the ultimate purposes of our profession better served by lawyers and judges acting with courtesy, grace, respect, and restraint? Whatever public benefit may come from public discussion of controversial topics, are there not more appropriate ways, far less harmful to the justice system, for those discussions to be initiated rather than through a judge’s controversial public comments?

As I understand it, part of your motivation for continuing with your blog is your passion that “federal trial judges be seen as individuals with all the strengths and weaknesses (baggage) that everyone else carries around.” (I take that quote from your reply to a response to your post about how female lawyers should dress for court.) First, I do not think that any person who thoughtfully considered that prospect could rationally conclude otherwise, with or without your blog. Second, I fail to understand the particular level of importance you apparently ascribe to folks’ possession of that understanding about judges. What difference does it make whether federal trial judges’ strengths and weaknesses and baggage are properly understood? To quote one of your rules for how women lawyers should dress, also known as the “dirty old man” post, “It is not about you.”

It is not that a judge, any more or less than anyone else, does or does not have thoughts like the more controversial ones you write about in your blog; it is that a judge should display the thoughtfulness and restraint appropriately expected of people who have accepted society’s call to judiciously make important, vital decisions. It is entirely proper for us to expect that judges not be publicly profane, lewd, or disrespectful; and it is entirely proper to expect judges’ words and deeds to be consistent with the high ideals of integrity and justice. In fact, the success, or lack of success, of our legal system largely depends on judges’ meeting these standards. Regardless of the public’s understanding of trial judges’ strengths and weaknesses and how similar those personal attributes may be to everyone else’s, it seems to me far more important to the purposes of the judicial system that a trial judge possess and display, at a minimum, the good judgment to know when something should not be said – an attribute that the existence of Hercules and the Umpire sometimes seemingly proves absent in you, much to the discredit of not only you but, through the public’s unscientific system of extrapolation, to the entire judicial system.

Again, I understand that I may be perceived as unbelievably presumptuous in privately communicating my thoughts to you. Please know that I do so only out of deep concern for our legal system’s ability to accomplish its purposes. Not that your decision on how you go forward is subject to some sort of vote, but my guess is that an overwhelming majority of lawyers disagree with your assumed conclusion that your blog does more good than harm; those I have talked to about your blog unanimously are of the opinion that you should make good on your earlier decision to stop. Again, I am certain that you have weighed the relative merits of making public your thinking on various topics and concluded that your doing so is, on balance, a positive thing. I respectfully disagree and ask, for the good of the legal system, that you please stop.

Best wishes on your treatment and recovery. My thoughts are with you and yours as you proceed on that journey.

With sincere respect,

I am going to give this letter serious consideration. It comes from someone I respect and whose judgment I trust. It also reminds me that, as a physician might say, I should always strive “first to do no harm.”  Blogging will be light while I figure this out.  While I will make up my own mind, advice (anonymous or otherwise), particularly from experienced lawyers and judges, would be welcome. Some things are more important than others.


305 responses

  1. I respectfully disagree with the writer. I thoroughly enjoy your blog and forward select commejnts to all my legal friends and associates. Thank heavens someone has the guts to speak out and expose the hypocrisy in the system. You are a breath of fresh air and should keep on keeping on!

  2. I hope you keep blogging. The judge I clerked for for many years blogged. I miss him terribly, and wish he’d been able to do more with his blog before he passed away. My current boss facebooks about the work at a very high level of abstraction. I think in both cases it has been a good thing. It educates the public on what we do in this mysterious building and gives them more of a handle on the constitutional power the courts wield on their behalf. I used to review Justice Chambers’ blog entries before he posted it and I might have suggested nixing “stfu” had he written it, but I love this glimpse into the federal judicial process. I’d be sorry to see it go.

  3. I couldn’t disagree more. The reason so many people have lost faith in the judiciary is because too many decisions seem politically motivated or to favor the powerful. As someone who has practiced law for over 30 years, 25 of them in the federal courts, I find your candor to be refreshing. I don’t always agree with you, but nothing you have written has affected my appreciation for the legal system. I appreciate your blog and hope you continue it.

  4. I enjoy your blog and hope you continue. It seems to me the premise of the letter is: the only way people will respect the judiciary is if they know nothing about it. If that’s what it takes, then is it really an institution worth respecting?

  5. Judge Kopf: I’m a big fan of the blog, and I think there is great value in a judge speaking frankly on matters of jurisprudence. I very much want the blog to continue. That said, I do think two posts crossed the line– first on female courthouse attire (which never should have seen the light of day) and now the “STFU” post (which needed to be toned down). Over at the Maryland Appellate Blog, I have the luxury of circulating a draft post among my co-editors before I post something potentially controversial. Perhaps you could identify two or three lawyers or judges whose judgment you value, and then send them draft posts in advance.

  6. From someone entirely outside of the legal profession, what a load of bollocks. I’ve been meaning to write you a note of appreciation — if you simply inverse every single sentiment of your corespondent’s letter you’d have the basic gist of it.

  7. Regardless of whether you blog about being a judge, you are a very good writer. Have you considered writing about something else, or perhaps writing a memoir which could be published after you are fully retired?

  8. As you are aware, I’m not a lawyer or a judge, but I am one of those members of the public about whose sensibilities your correspondent agonizes at such length.

    His email is insulting. It insults my intelligence, and it insults the intelligence of my fellow Americans, whether or not they’re legal professionals, and for all that we’re a fractious bunch who disagree with each other, with you, with lawyers, and often at the tops of our lungs. If a judge cannot even restrain himself or herself…how do we legitimately expect the public to trust a judge to make the critical decisions he or she is daily called upon to address? That seems far too long of a leap of faith to ask, much less to expect, the public to make. I’ll leave aside the straw man aspect of his argument and return the question: How does the legal profession expect us to trust a judge who hides behind the sanctity of a secret guild with its unique jargon, entering before us only to issue pronouncements?

    I ask you to keep blogging, and to keep doing so without changing the barest minim of your style or subject choices. If we can’t see the human side of a necessarily human institution, we are left to wonder: what is being hidden, and why?

    Eric Hines

  9. I hate to break it to you but the public does not have a very high opinion of judges, certainly no more than any other profession.

    Sure, the “dirty old man” post disappointed me but then I quickly realized that it was my own fault for thinking that a judge would somehow be immune to the male chauvinism that comes so easily to men in high position.

    If the blog accelerates public disillusionment, so be it. And let those in the legal field rise above it and earn the respect that the system so desperately needs.

  10. Well, I suppose he has a point about the use of the STFU acronymn. That raised my eyebrows, and for my eyebrows to get raised is saying something. I would keep on blogging with a certain amount of the tone and language. I take that view as a lawyer who himself has practiced for 25 years, largely in federal court. I think the mistake too often is made to join into the silent choir group where silence is the credo. Silence is the norm and it has gotten the legal profession into a position of misguided decorum. Apparently, lawyers and judges are not supposed to criticize judicial decisions for fear they will get kicked out of the silent choir. I think not speaking out appropriately gives the wrong impression that all judges or lawyers agree with, or “accept” as appropriate, controversial judicial rulings, For me the choice is to not be viewed as adopting by silence and to speak out where it seems appropriate, and to do so with a reasonable amount of consideration to the words chosen.

  11. Every writer should strive to exhibit good judgment in what they write about and how they write it. While this goes doubly true for an Article III judge, it is by no means true that the cure must be “don’t write.” As a lawyer for over 20 years, I appreciate your perspective and, frankly, the humanizing view your blog brings to the federal bench. It would be a damn shame if you gave it up.

  12. Oh, and a couple more things. There’s this from just a couple of posts below about a young lawyer’s book: Unlike many law books of this or any other kind, the words and sentences are short and the meaning unmistakable. There is a refreshing sense of wide-eyed honesty. Lee is not afraid to reveal himself and by so doing his book comes alive to reveal the machinery that is the practice of law. This is your blog as much as it is Lee’s book.

    And there’s your post just below about your blog sometimes achieving outright good. That sort of occurrence alone is worth your continuing your blog. Unchanged in its essentials.

    Eric Hines

  13. Your Honor, it sounds like some in Nebraska — like Texas — have very little patience for those of us who may have slid a little over to the curmudgeon side of life. I would say that after more than six decades of life, 45 years as a lawyer, and more than 20 years on the federal bench, you may be entitled to express some views on what you have learned and observed. After all, the view is a little different from there. One of the commenters suggested a panel of reviewers to filter your posts. I have always found that 24 hours in my bottom desk drawer before letting something out in the world serves that same purpose exceptionally well.

  14. I pretty much agree with Josh King. Your blog is illuminating, intelligent and insightful. (Had to get that last i-word in there.) But perhaps you should consider narrowing your focus. I say that although I agree with most of what you write. Yet perhaps in a hierarchical system, and when you are off the bench as you are in this blog, a certain deference is due for institutional purposes, if nothing else. Your post on the passive virtues was penetrating, if intemperate at the end, but it might be more appropriate had you asked a question, such as: Is the court advancing its institutional role by taking on–indeed, seeming to reach for–cases of great public interest, or would it be better served by adopting Bickel’s passive virtues?

    So, perhaps a compromise between the lawyer who suggested you stop, and those who want you to continue full-stop.

  15. Exactly!
    I agree with your STFU sentiment. There has been a pending Ethics bill since 2013 not passed by congress (surprise,surprise)! The scotus is terribly out of touch with reality, bought off by corps, or all of the above. Without Judges to call them out on their behavior…what else is there?

  16. I was quite dismayed when you earlier announced you were hanging it up as a blogger, as I had only discovered the blog a couple of months before. Your essays were a remarkable chance to look “behind the curtain” that ordinary citizens – lawyer or not – don’t often get. I felt cheated.

    However, I find myself agreeing with your brave correspondent above. It is one thing to become privy to thoughtful insights of someone wise, well spoken and experienced, and quite another to experience the literary equivalent of having to watch the same person defecate in the woods, and wipe his butt with the available leaves. The former involves things I want to know and can learn from, perhaps becoming wiser and more thoughtful myself, and the latter is just too much sharing of information, thoughts and concerns that should be, and should stay, private.

    So if you are to the point where your purpose in writing is shifting, or has already shifted, from the meaty and thought-provoking to the socially and politically blunt but not particularly interesting, it may be time to once again to discontinue. I know you have a lot more to teach me, but I would rather forgo that opportunity than see you continually veer into the base and unacceptable, thereby chipping away at the credibility of the work you have already done.

  17. I am a former career law clerk for a federal district judge in the Midwest, and I comment with the utmost respect, your honor. This letter writer thoughtfully puts words to the concerns I have with many of your law-related posts. You won’t often hear constructive criticism like this from lawyers, I would imagine, because to us, you are the emperor, and your new clothes are just wonderful. Also like the letter writer, every colleague with whom I have discussed your blog (it happens that each was also a federal law clerk in your neck of the woods) has similar concerns.

    (If it gives you any indication of the silent sentiment among some of the bar, I’m having tremendous difficulty hitting the “post comment” button, even as an anonymous poster, because speaking to you in such a way strikes me as inappropriate, despite your request for input.)

  18. Your Honor, stick with blogging.

    Self-silencing is highly damaging to good deliberation. Informational influences and social pressures may discourage you, but groups can tend to propagate and even to amplify cognitive errors. Well functioning communities take steps to encourage the knowledgeable to feel free to disclose what they believe to be true. After all, federal judges have life tenure for a reason.

    The public’s trust is strengthened by witnessing the sometimes rough but clearly authentic statements you’re making. And the statements are to your credit, even when I and others disagree with you.

  19. Please continue blogging. Even include the occasional stfu, which would be intemperate and wrong if used too much, but hit exactly the right note on your Hobby Lobby comments. It was the right note, not simply because it expressed an important point about the Supremes doing harm to the nation’s political process, but because those four little letters helped spread the message far more widely (among far more lawyers and judges), than it would have gone without them.

  20. Judge Kopf, I sincerely hope you continue your blog. While some euphemisms may not be appropriate, the exercise of our First Amendment rights helps protect the Constitutional basis of law in our Republic, first and foremost by educating those who will listen.

    As a political blogger myself, we often do not the good our writings accomplish. Studies of consumer reporting systems reveals less than one in ten customers complains about a problem, but fewer than one in one hundred will send positive feedback to the company. Our words impact the lives of far more people than we may realize. If our writings are just, right, and true, so are their impact on others and our nation as a whole.

    Our nation faces a tide of ignorant idealism, more so now than ever. In large part due to the rising standard of living and the numerous safety nets in our nation, most Americans lack the education and experience to understand the cold hard facts of what happens when a nation fails due to lack of good, fact-based reasoning and sound judgement. As digging ourselves out of such holes is far, far more expensive than any benefit gained by falling into them, it behooves all of us to keep plugging away, hoping to educate enough people in order for our nation as a whole to avoid the ideological pitfalls altogether.

    Sadly, our voters continue to elect Legislators, Governors, Representatives, Senators, and Presidents who are far more capable of getting elected than they are of running our nation. Until they make better choices, the battle between ideology and reality will continue.

    So, please keep at it, Your Honor! We’re not done yet…

  21. I’m not a lawyer or a judge, although as a special education advocate in California, I litigate before the Office of Administrative Hearings, and this has made me learn the law as best I may.

    I appreciate the lawyer writing to you as frankly as he did. That’s what friends do, so keep him in your rolodex! And he does have a point.

    But his note suffers from the fallacy of the excluded middle. I haven’t seen the other post that he wrote of, but it does sound like it may have been a bit imprudent. But I have seen the latest, and I have two observations:
    (1) ”As the kids say, stfu” does not rise to the level of profanity equivalent to spelling out ”shut the fuck up,” any more than expressions such as BS, CYA, or FUBAR rise to the level of the same expressions spelled out. That’s not strictly rational, but it is how people think and feel, which in thihs matter is really the only issue. By mistakenly equating these, your friend as distorted things.
    (2) I think this point has been made already, but respecting the legal system isn’t the same thing as pretending that it has a sanctity that it doesn’t have, The SCOTUS is a political court, far more than circuit courts, and certainly more so than a trial court. That’s not an abuse; it’s by design. It is a judicial body, but it is unavoidably a political body, which must weigh heavily the policy implications of its decisions, and not simply make legal decisions in a vacuum. While that discretion can be abused – and disgracefully so at times as in Bush v Gore – being a political court is appropriate for the SCOTUS.
    But that means that the SCOTUS forfeits some of the deference that a less political court is entitled to, and the more so as it is more evidently making a political rather than judicial judgment. So I don’t see why there is anything wrong with you disputing thheir political judgments like anyone else.

    Now that’s a separate question from how you may prudently express yourself and what expressions you ought to use or not use in doing so. In the ”instant case,” as they say, you have to weigh the cost of offense given – alluded to by your friend – against the resulting gain of the attention to your very good points on the debate in society outside the legal world, which is a very significant factor. You took PT Barnum’s advice that to be noticed you have to wiggle your ears, which in this context at least deserves to be considered.

    So to me it’s obvious that you do keep blogging – it’s a great civic benefit – and you take care to try to get it right when you do.

  22. Judge:
    The now-notorious “dirty old man” post is what led me to this blog in the first place. After perusing it I concluded that, on balance, your entries (and the comments thereto) offered more than they detracted. So, count me in the “keep blogging” group. I respect the opinion of the lawyer asking you to stop. But, other than for the occasional use of curse words, there is, IMHO, nothing here that promotes disrespect for the judiciary or the legal profession. I hope this helped you come to a conclusion one way or another.

  23. In your now-scandalous post you claim that the U.S. Supreme Court causes more harm than good to our democracy by making controversial decisions.

    The fact is, according to AP research published earlier this year, over half of all Americans believe the U.S. government is broken and cannot be fixed by reform. The gravity of this statement cannot be overestimated. Half of population believe the government needs a reboot. Even former president Jimmy Carter had admitted that the U.S. is no longer a functioning democracy.

    We have a director of national intelligence who lies to congress and then comes back under oath and admits it with no consequences. And here you are, a federal judge showing absolute contempt for the highest court in the nation on a personal blog.

    I guess my point is, you cant really make things any worse. You might as well write what you want to write.

  24. Well said Mr. Klepper. Surely few of us have strong opinions that would not benefit from an editor’s light touch, or a cooling off period.

  25. only question is will the writer write in the same tone if you’ve written for the decision made by SCOTUS?

  26. I hope you continue to blog. If you are concerned that some protest (or hype) your use of vernacular, throttle it back a bit, but keep on writing.

  27. >>I am unable to understand how judicial thinking out loud can ever be a net plus on the scales of public trust and confidence in judges and, by extension, the law.

    That this lawyer would rather the machinations of “justice” be kept private and hidden from the public seems to me to be an elitist position based in appearances and fear .

    To quote Brandeis, Publicity is justly commended as a remedy for social and industrial diseases. Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants; electric light the most efficient policeman.

    Keep posting from the inner circle so those of us with no access can see.

  28. Wow. You have some really good commenters, and hence presumably even more really good readers. They are reason enough not to kill the blog. I don’t know if I qualify as the “experienced lawyer” you refer to and have in mind. Although I graduated from law school in 1999, my career has been half-assed and crippled throughout, ever since I decided to write my student law review article on a topic that was controversial enough to get it distributed to every member of Congress by a Congressman. Perhaps if I had learned to STFU, and to not take too seriously the quote from a federal district court decision I chose to head my article (“There is just nothing wrong with telling the American people the truth.”), and to be a politician, I too could have been a Judge. But I also had other flaws, and did not have the work ethic to be a prophet.

    “If the blog accelerates public disillusionment, so be it.” Indeed. What is enlightenment but disillusionment? The United States has had a good run. Or has it? I’ve been reading Schopenhauer lately, and he, writing in the middle of the 19th century, had some very choice things to say about how the “devils” who populated this country treated their “black brothers,” and what it said for our vaunted Constitution.

    There’s no reason to fear such loss of faith. The opposite of “trust” in the “system,” or in any man’s judgment, is the presumption of innocence, i.e., justice. Our government, from top to bottom, needs a great big dose of humility, even if it amounts to a fatal overdose.

  29. I am not a member of the legal profession. I am a retired federal manager – the only profession held in lower esteem than lawyers.

    For baby boomers, we have watched our courts go from overturning school segregation to creating religious rights for corporations. Not just religious rights, but religious rights that reduce women to third class citizens – behind corporations and human males. Religious rights that are based on bigotry and misuse of terminology, instead of science.

    We have a Supreme Court that declares that blatant Conflicts of Interest are not a threat to its reputation, and refuses every suggestion to adopt enforceable rules of behavior.

    When a Justice ‘forgets’ that his wife is an extremely well paid lobbyist for one side of a case before the court, it damages our respect for the Court.
    When a Justice openly mocks the President of the United States during the State of the Union address, it damages our respect for the Court.
    When we see Scalia hanging out with extremely conservative Republican politicians and corporate CEOs, then voting in their favor, we take it for granted that he is voting according to his political and financial beliefs.

    A highly respected Judge has suggested that you stop publishing these essays on your blog. He takes great pride in the judicial profession, and appears to feel threatened by colleagues criticizing their fellow judges and judicial activity. Citizens ask the same questions that you ask, but we do not have your understanding of how the judicial system operates.

    I do not believe that ignoring widespread distrust and disgust is beneficial. Many of us question what appears to be a judicial army marching in lockstep. Your essays demonstrate that there is legitimate dissent with certain judicial trends, and are a much appreciated service.

    I hope this makes some sense, Thank you.

  30. Pingback: NE judge says Supreme Court should have 'STFU' rather than rule on Hobby Lobby «

  31. Judge Kopf — Please do stop blogging. I have billable hour requirements to meet here at the firm and your fascinating- sometimes moving; sometimes controversial – posts are sucking time away that I should be billing to clients. My children need a new Play Station 4 and you are solely responsible for me telling them to go mow the neighbors’ yards for money. For the love of God, please think of my suffering children before you write that next post.

  32. I’ve been practicing in federal courts in Virginia for a little over a decade and first clerked for a federal magistrate judge in Charlottesville. IMHO: Don’t stop blogging. Don’t go with a review panel. Just keep writing and take to heart whatever lessons might be learned from criticisms of some of the posts.

  33. The authors makes good points and many thoughtful comments, but the solution is wrong. I respectfully suggest that rather than the complete cessation of public blogging, you simply need an editor.

  34. Judge Knopf, I disagree with your interlocutor– primarily because he appears to put more stock in the image of impartiality and justice than the reality of it. We live in a period of history in which image often seems to be of more concern to people than reality. That is the very definition of hypocrisy– wanting to appear one way while being another. The problem with the judicial system is less the presence of politics and power than it is the reliance on the appearance of virtue instead of its reality. Once, the term “honor” denoted a consistency between one’s words and actions and one’s character. Now, character is given short shrift– and real honor and virtue are regarded as outmoded or naive or both. What this country needs more of are judges who are honorable in their judgements. As a liberal I would prefer to have honorable men as friends regardless of their political philosophy than I do to have friends who share my philosophy but justify dishonesty and corruption in the name of expediency and pragmatism. The great weakness of the current conservative cohort on the Supreme Court is not their conservatism, it is the absence of shame they seem to have where their own interests conflict with the interest of fairness.

  35. Don’t Stop blogging. You make sense and speak the truth. We need more people like you that have the courage to speak the truth.

  36. With due respect to the author who had the conviction to write that email, I disagree.

    Public trust is important, of course. But to get from “public trust is important” to “this blog erodes public trust” takes quite a leap. I read the argument behind the leap to be that if the public can’t trust a judge not to tell Congress to STFU, how can it trust a judge to decide their case fairly?

    To which I would argue: What?!

    I just don’t see the connection.

    That’s not to say the partisans won’t manufacture some connection. They surely will; that’s what they do. But to try and fail to avoid this unavoidable thing we should end judicial blogging? I hope not. Particularly since I also like books and articles by judges, interviews with judges, roundtables with Judge Posner, NYRB diatribes by Judge Rakoff, and dicta. If judicial navel gazing and out loud judicial thinking are so disagreeable, it seems like these things also have to go.

    Finally, in contrast to the author, I think judges speaking honestly and intelligently to the public as if the public is itself intelligent promotes public trust, not harms it. We can debate over things like “STFU,” but I would be legitimately shocked if, for example, it were true that the public is better off never hearing from the relative handful of people who impose criminal sentences on what they truly think about the sentencing guidelines.

    I say thank you for the blog and I hope it continues.

  37. I have to agree with Mr. Klepper, please keep blogging, the profanity however is beneath you and undermines the validity of your comments. My personal guideline is to try and be passionate, articulate and accurate and if I wouldn’t say it in front of my grandmother, than I should not be saying it out loud to others. When I am angry or upset over a situation I put my emails and posts in the draft folder and then look at them the next day after a good night’s sleep. If in the light of a new day I still want to send it then I do so. Probably 98% of the time though I either decide not to send it, or tone it down before sending it.

  38. I heard of your blog today in regard to the Supreme Court issue. I’ve been practicing law for almost 40 years. A year ago I would have had a different opinion on blogging. However, there’s been a lot of water over the dam since then. My opinion is that people need to speak out. In certain groups I believe that silence is interpreted to mean agreement. Earlier today I saw a comment from a Canadian – he was questioning our continual claim that we are “exceptional” when all we can do is cause drama and chaos about issues that should have been resolved long ago. I agree – if we keep going down this politicized path we will lose any remaining crediblity we have left. It disturbs me that battles that were fought 40 years ago are still being revisited. And, in regard to the lawyer from Nebraska, and I understand you are in Nebraska, how about that parade in Norfolk? I have to tell you, that parade entry would not make it on the street where I live.

  39. I have told my only child for years. “You would not care what people think of you if you actually knew how seldom they did.” You are different. People do think of and follow you. Last time I checked there was no federal law requiring folks to read your blog. If they don’t like what you have to say or how you say it ….STOP READING IT! Keep on blogging, my dear friend and valued colleague.

  40. I have always believed in praising my colleagues in public and keeping negative remarks in private. I see little benefit in your blog posting relative to the SCOTUS decision. I was particularly distressed to see the Judges religious affiliation made part of your screed.

  41. Your Honor, Please Don’t Stop!

    In the pitch of battle one may tend to say things without the constraints of “political correctness,” even though what is said is truthful. I appreciate your candor.

    I wish you well in this time of reflection and hope that at some point you resume speaking truth to power.

    Live strong, live well.

  42. It is my opinion as a paralegal who has more experience before judges in civil and criminal matters than I would like that it is essential for judges to be open and honest. Your blog is (and more like them) are needed. For far too long the legal system has tried to cover its mistakes, stupidity, randomness, and even illegal activities by insisting that only words and comments that help to fool the public into believing the legal system is perfect. Of course most judges are honest as are most (or many or some?) lawyers. Your blog helps people see and understand that the justice system is made of human beings with all their faults, baggage and imperfection.

    For the sake of our justice system I would respectfully ask that you continue your blog. People need to know that judges are human beings, and the people just might (occasionally) have the same opinions as a human judges.

    Thank you.

  43. Pingback: Judge Might Give Up Blogging After Telling Supreme Court To ‘STFU’ | Construction

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  45. Anonymous, I don’t think you were reading well.

    His Honor was not complaining about the religious affiliations of the 5 majority justices, but that their being all Roman Catholics will make it look all the more as if they voted their religious preferences rather than addressing the merits. Do you really think that’s not a relevant concern? Is it really improper for a judge or any member of the legal community to bring it up?

  46. Above all, do not submit your blog posts to a review panel. Too many cooks spoil the soup. As you know, I have not hesitated to criticize you when I thought your blog went over the line of propriety, as it did with the “dirty old man” post. Your lack of defensiveness about the severe criticism you got for that post won me over. It is essential that you keep blogging, warts and all. That will do more to restore credibility to the judiciary than to retreat behind a cloak of silence, trying to give the impression that judging is done by a higher being who is not subject to the foibles of ordinary folks. The solution for bad speech is more speech. When you go over the line, as you will occasionally, your willingness to give your critics space to point out your errors, more than atones for the mistakes.

    To summarize: Change nothing. If you must change something, give yourself a 24-hour cooling off period before hitting the publish button.

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  48. I’m not a lawyer. I find it insulting that your colleague seems to believe that I would have more trust in a legal black box that pronounces judgement that in a living human, with foibles, and with whom I occasionally disagree.

    I, for one, strongly agreed with the majority in the Hobby Lobby decision, and only worried that it did not go far enough. In spite of our disagreement, it humanizes the judiciary that I get to read your candid, and definitely uncensored, opinions on what the supreme court has done. You will never get such candor from me about what my boss’ boss has done. (That lifetime tenure thing has to be worth something.)

    There was a time when unfamiliarity bred authority and respect, but I do not think so now. I fear the judge who retreats from the dialog more than I fear one who occasionally missteps. The “thinking out loud” is exactly what convinces me that there is justice, somewhere in the system, trying to get out.

    I join many others here in urging you to continue this blog.

    PS: As a scientist, I take particular umbrage at the “all the other lawyers I talk to agree with me” comments. As one of my professors taught me: The plural of anecdote is gossip, not data.

  49. Dear Judge Kopf,

    I recently read your post regarding the Supreme court and their decision about highly controversial issues, especially the contraception case. While you and have some different political views I have to say I have I have tremendous respect and admiration for you.

    I’m just a regular dude from Minneapolis, MN and ordinary voters like me are desensitized with news and information that so many things just slide by. Your post was different. You were not afraid to step in front of the curtain and speak what you thought. I couldn’t agree with you more and I hope to hear more of you. I will be following your blog regularly and wish you nothing but continued success.

    As the kids say, don’t let those haters keep you down.

    Best wishes,


  50. My opinion probably does not count—I am a California lawyer and therefore out of step with the rest of the country. But, here it is FWIW.

    If an Article 3 Senior Judge cannot speak his mind on matters concerning the judiciary, in a blog or anywhere else, there is not a judge in the land that can—unless they happen to belong to the Supremes. Do not STFU. If you can stand the heat, keep cookin’.

    I particularly enjoyed your “Dirty Old Man” post. It is the reason I started reading your blog. It rang true from my own personal experiences in U.S. District Court in the 70s. I appreciated its humorous, slightly earthy tone. Women know men are pigs: it does not hurt to remind them a robe does not change the man.

    You said exactly what I, and many others, were thinking about the Hobby Lobby decision. That decision, not your comments, puts the Supreme Court in a bad light.

    The criticism express but the Nebraska lawyer is full of legal mumbo jumbo. I don’t agree with any of it, particularly its length: 1169 words to say nothing more than STFU.

  51. Keep blogging. I, nor the local lawyers i know, who like the blog don’t base that opinion on fear of repurcussions or to curry favor.
    Everything is so damn slanted with this or that political ideology or cleansed of all thought to not offend anymore. An unabashed view from where the rubber meets the road is a good thing. The days of the public automatically respecting a Judge because he is a Judge are over, now its a synical view of how that person is furthering his ideology. This blog is the antithesis of that.
    We’re big boys and girls. We can take it.
    I can even be told to stfu and not take it personally. Hope all is going well.

  52. Judge Kopf:

    As you know, I’ve read your blog from its inception. I’ve commented less frequently now that you have groupies. I’m back to say this:

    Don’t stop. I am a young lawyer in the 25-35 bracket and I regularly discuss your posts with my cohorts.

    Your sentiments and language are not shocking, nor do they cause us to lose faith in the system.

    The opposite, in fact. Your transparency and honesty cause us to have more faith that the judiciary is filled with real people. We respect you (and by extension) the rest of the judiciary all the more for having the bravery to speak your mind.

    We don’t necessarily agree with everything you say, and sometimes I think I am the only one of my colleagues to get your humor, but we all believe that less transparency, less communication, less humanity can never lead to a good thing. The only thing that secrecy and rote authoritarianism engenders is resentment and closeted disrespect.

    Keep up the good fight, Your Honor.

    PS. I have a feeling that I, as well as the other commenters here, are a fairly biased sample, acting in their self-interest by encouraging more drama. 😉

  53. For some reason, WordPress shows me as Anonymous.

    This is your longtime hipster groupie, who slavishly yes-man’d you before it was popular, J. Law.

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  55. I have been doing death penalty work for more than a decade. This past year has been my most difficult as a lawyer–I have been on the verge of despair concerning our justice system. Your blog has been a light in the darkness for me, and I really hope you keep blogging.

  56. youre going to listen to a lawyer on this? deeeeep in his 25 years going on 100? or the common pissant maggot on the street like myself?


  57. Dr. Judge Kopf: I’m no attorney or judge, but as a private American citizen I encourage you to keep doing what you do. There is a lot of craziness going on in this country — the NSA, the Hobby Lobby case, Citizens United, the government shutdown — I could go on and on. People, particularly people in positions of power, need to speak out about this insanity and keep speaking out. It’s the only way anything will ever change. Hats off to you, Your Honor. Keep it up.

  58. sorry for double post, but I wanted to add that I agree with your take on hobby lobby.

    I agree with the decision only as a bulwark against government overreach on the specific issue, but I also agree with your conclusions on the decision in terms of misogyny and agree on the fact that they need to stop doing these big cases.

    Keep writing. Not for lawyers. But for me. And people like me. Who did not go to law skool.

    if you want to stop. stop. keep life simple where and when you can.

  59. As a practicing attorney, I agree with the email you received from your trusted friend. Even federal judges are entitled to their opinions. However, your blog crosses the line and violates the Code of Professional conduct. If you disagree with a decision of the USSCt, there are more appropriate ways to express your opinion, provided you do so in a way that does not compromise your ability to hear future cases that may come before you. It seems to me you have a clear choice to make here, if you want to continue to be a federal judge, you need to stop blogging and start behaving in a more judicial manner. If you want to continue to blog, you need to resign.

  60. no offense…well i dont really care..but lawyers and the bar are like the nyse or whatever body licenses traders; always talking their book.

    it’s a cozy club.

    but this is a new paradigm:
    information wants to be free.
    information hates hierarchy.
    information loves entropy.

    you lawyers didn’t skip all those science and math classes, so I know you know what I know.

    Hey, “Chiefy” as Quint from Jaws would say: hey judge, you keep writing okay?

    Stay up.

  61. As another lay reader, I truly appreciate your frankness. And as a writer, I though the “as the kids say” bit defanged the SFTU, making it clear that you mean it as the kids do: casually, jokingly, lightly.

    Please keep blogging. By all means, be judicious in what you write. But judicious doesn’t have to mean desiccated, timid, or milquetoast. As a citizen, I have vastly more trust in institutions I understand than ones I don’t. Hearing how a federal judge evaluates the actions of the judiciary gives me much more confidence that things are generally working well than a silent, black-robed cabal ever could.

  62. Judge Kopf,
    One thing I haven’t seen in the comments: the writer’s last paragraph. Every lawyer I have talked to about your blog has expressed interest and asked for the website URL. I have not encountered any lawyers who do not approve of what you are doing. I don’t know where this friend of yours got the idea that most lawyers do not approve, but perhaps they are projecting their own insecurity onto others. You know my other thoughts on this matter.


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  64. Dear Judge Kopf: I also disagree with the writer. Please don’t stop. You are a voice of sanity and reason in a politically charged, ideological world gone wild. SCOTUS has become a disappointing and dangerous joke, as the majority clearly rules according to its party line (and, dare I say, big donors?) not according to what makes sound objective sense for the greater good. (e.g. Large corporations are people? Really?) We have become a country of noisy bullies and extremists to the point that even SCOTUS is involved. Again, please don’t stop. There don’t seem to be many refreshingly sane voices left.

  65. The general presumption that trial judges know the law and apply it properly, however, is much more than a mere combination of the above maxims.   Such a simplistic view would tend to minimize and trivialize the foundational role of trial judges in our legal system, our government, and in our society as a whole.   The social and moral character of that role as one of the cornerstones of our system of law and governance was well observed over one hundred and fifty years ago, in the case of Moody v. Davis, 10 Ga. 403, 411-13 (1851), in words which are as elemental today as they were when written:

    “The people are the depository of judicial power with us.   Judges are their authenticated representatives, charged with the duty of dispensing justice, according to the constitution and laws of the State, and according to the constitution of the United States․ It is the duty of the Judge to enforce the laws of the State, made in accordance with State and Federal Constitution-the whole law, as it applies, in his judgment, to the cases which come before him.   He has no right and no power to withhold the application of one single principle of law, to a single case over which he has jurisdiction;  he has no dispensation, justifying or excusing an omission to apply the law.   Neither conscientious scruples about the morality of the law, nor convictions of its inexpediency-nor what are called the tendencies of the age-nor political biases or party associations-nor fear, nor favor, nor reward, nor the hope of reward, nor all of these combined, should be sufficiently potent to induce him, in his judgments, to transcend the law, or to fall short of its strict enforcement.   If such are his duties, it is wholly immaterial whether a principle of law be brought to his notice by counsel, or is suggested by his own knowledge and observation.   If the principle grow out of the case, and he believes it to be law, he is bound by the responsibilities of his position-by his official oath-by the very nature of his office-by all the expediencies of judicature, to give it full effect.   To that he is called-for that he is clothed with the people’s (if I may so speak) judicial sovereignty;  and if conscience or aught else suggests a higher law, and conscience cannot yield, let him retire and give place to those who are willing to execute the laws.   It is the business of the Judge to know the law;  that he does know the law, is the presumption of all the departments of the State.   He is selected, (such at least is the theory,) on account of his knowledge of the laws, as well as on account of other qualifications.   He is presumed to bring to the Bench fitness for its duties.   This presumption of knowledge does not attribute to him perfection in the knowledge of a science, to the mastery of which the allotted term of human life, occupied with all possible diligence, is insufficient.   It does not charge him with the indispensable necessity of ascertaining and ruling every point of law which may spring out of the case, from its beginning to its conclusion.   Hence, a mere omission to suggest and apply a point not brought to his notice, is not error, unless, as I suppose, it were made to appear to a corrective tribunal that he was cognizant of it.   He is not presumed, of course, to be infallible;  and hence, he is not liable to an action for any judgment which he may, in good faith, render in a cause over which he has jurisdiction.   He is presumed to be fallible;  else why provide, not only that he shall correct his own errors by a power to grant new trials, but, also, that they shall be corrected by others, by organizing Courts of Review.   The presumption demands diligence to know, and diligence to apply the law-patience and painstaking to master the facts of the case, and to ascertain upon what principles the right between the parties depends.   With all the aid that counsel can give him, and without aid from counsel, he is bound to labor to ascertain truth-the truth of the law.” State v. Chaney, 825 A.2d 452 (Md. 2003).

  66. The offended need to put away the fainting pills and wake up to the real world. Those of us NOT in the legal profession need to see what happens in court** more than ever. Our opinion of the courts can not get much lower except thru hiding behind the curtain.

    ** I have many friends who are lawyers, none who are judges. Your POV is very much appreciated.

  67. In order to reduce my chances of making a fool of myself, I went back and read the dirty old man post (Marc 25). I also read the March 31 post, and in view of that, what does anyone want more from you?

    At this point, it seems to me that the old proverb applies: the dogs bark, but the caravan moves on.

  68. I had never heard of RGK or his blog until I stumbled across his “stfu” post. I wholeheartedly disagree with the criticism leveled by the writer of this email. It seem that he his more concerned with the appearance of the judicial system to the public, than with the actual fair and wise functioning of it. Speak your mind and I know where you stand, whether I agree or disagree. Kowtow to those who would have you intentionally secreting your honest perspective and you are guilty of manipulation, as are so many of our representatives and institutions. Hang in there, and as the kids also say, “Do you”.

  69. Don’t you dare stop blogging! Your criticisms about the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby ruling — issued by five white men, all Catholics — was spot on. (I say that as a white male Christian myself.) The reputation of our courts system won’t ever get better if everyone on the inside keeps quiet about it.

  70. Dear Judge Kopf

    While new to your blog, I have taken the time to read a number of your entries to get an idea of your presentations on various issues. I am a longtime researcher and enthusiast on legal history and the role of courts. I find your blog to be a very good addition to the public discourse about the legal system. That a respected federal trial judge takes the time to offer some very cogent, and prescient ideas to the ongoing debates can do nothing but improve the public understanding of the courts, and engender a greater respect for them. I understand the concerns of the author of the letter and can sympathize with some of them, but I have long felt that the so-called “mystique” of the judiciary has somehow harmed it in an age where the courts are more and more delving into issues of such complexity and public interest. That people can see the more “human” qualities of the thought process of a judge, whether on a legal topic, or a non-legal topic, enhances rather than detracts from the public respect. It also gives a more balanced way in which the public may determine for itself whether the courts are acting in responsible, intelligent ways. I would like to add my vote and request that you keep on writing your blog. I wish you the best.

    Gregg Williams

  71. Judge,

    I have what my mother used to call (and still would were she alive) a foul mouth. I’m a blogger. I’m a criminal defense lawyer. I clerked for a year for a federal judge (the late Hal Woodward, N.D. Texas). I’m also a citizen, deeply concerned about many issues and many legal issues – both those directly related to criminal law and others. Before I went to law school, I studied medieval and renaissance English literature and taught college English classes for 15 years. Here’s what I’ve learned.

    Justice Brandeis was right. “Sunlight is the best disinfectant.” Those who urge you to stop blogging or to submit your posts to a content editor or a review panel don’t agree. To switch allusions (and metaphors), they think that if only that child had not pointed out that the Emperor was naked, everyone would have actually marveled at his sartorial genius. It’s not true. They all knew the Emperor had no clothes. They were afraid to say it, even to admit it.

    Respect for the Rule of Law, and yes, for the judiciary, doesn’t come from ex cathedra pronouncements which must be right because, after all, the little people can’t be expected to understand. It comes from transparency, openness, the willingness to engage and explain.

    I’m convinced that you’ve done more to show, to demonstrate that the judiciary and the legal system can be thoughtful, caring, and careful and can legitimately struggle over hard questions. Those are qualities that generate respect, not disdain. Tell SCOTUS that it ought to shut the fuck up (sorry, I said I had a foul mouth)? Sure Not because you’re being snide but because you have a thoughtful point to make. And SCOTUS is, after all, not infallible because it is right but because it is last.

    I thank you for Hercules and the Umpire. Please keep it going. As it is.


  72. Hello,
    I’m 26. I’m a recently promoted, low level bureaucrat for the University of California. Frankly, I’ve never heard of you, but I’m compelled to write because I think your lawyer friend’s advice, though well-intentioned, is wrong. Your blog only increases your accessibility and service to the public. I’m hoping by leaving this post I will be both contributing to your decision to keep blogging (obscene word) and proving my assertion in the previous sentence. Out here in the west we don’t have a draconian senses of propriety, maybe you should consider sending yours back to Europe.

  73. I agree with Richard Hirsch. The Supreme Court has had multiple partisan, divisive rulings in recent years. I was in Central Asia when the SCOTUS awarded the presidency to GW Bush. My staff began to give me the sort of look usually reserved for slowly dementing elders. You see, I had assured them of a couple of things. A. That you really could plug a clock into the wall and depend on the electricity to be so reliable it wouldn’t stop. and B. That USA elections were free and fair, without interference. Then we had Enron’s pillaging of California’s electricity market and rolling blackouts, and Bush v. Gore.

    This supreme court looks to the outside world more and more like a banana republic court somewhere in South America. The difference is that at least in S. America, they are embarrassed about it, and they strive to improve it.

    The position that the judiciary is improved by lying is precisely what ails the system. Nobody is fooled by it. That is what alcoholic families do.

  74. As a nurse, an analyst and someone with a deep respect for the law I would like to share an experience that should support Mr. Klepper’s position. I was rightly cited for speeding in the city which I reside. I went to appear in court to avoid the consequences of my actions. Before I appeared before the judge she very wisely said…”For those of you requesting a reset to acquire legal counsel, consider this. If you may be guilty but wish to avoid the consequences of your actions, consider this. If you were to plead not guilty (as many of you are planning on doing, despite your guilt) I would feel compelled to show you that failure to accept responsibility for your actions has grave consequences, however if you were to plead ‘nolo contendere’ I would without hesitation grant you an opportunity to take defensive driving. An explanation that followed detailed that although technically this was an admission of guilt, it was not a plea of ‘Guilty’. She said “Speeding tickets are not bad things, they are reminders that you have become too comfortable in your current behavior and it is one of life’s little reminders to be more mindful and slow down.”
    I have only very recently started following your blog, but find it very insightful and enjoyable. I would hope you consider the communication from one of the judges perhaps a ‘speeding ticket’ is G-d’s way of suggesting a more mindful existence. Just a little slower.
    R Lettvin

  75. You are, Dear Judge, the Wizard of Oz, except you have willingly pulled back the curtain. And while there was some disillusionment initially for Dorothy and her fellow travelers, it certainly all worked out for the best. Although just an ordinary man, Oz gave the Scarecrow “bran-new brains”, the Tin Woodman a silk heart stuffed with sawdust, the Cowardly Lion a potion of courage, and Dorothy and Toto a way back to Kansas. But most importantly for him, Oz was now free to go Home. The truth is, Hercules and the Umpire is your path back Home. Don’t leave it.

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  77. Judge Kopf, I hope you decide to keep blogging because I just discovered Hercules and the Umpire tonight and I am enthralled.

    That is a very thoughtful letter, though, and it does bear serious consideration.

    I would imaging that balancing a federal judgeship against one’s need to be seen as human is a tightrope act sometime. I truly sympathize. The fact that this comes from a person you know and respect can’t make it any easier.

    We all go through periods where we have to step back, blog lightly, and figure out what we’re about. That’s part of blogging. Best of luck with it. 🙂

  78. I wonder if the author of that letter has written one in a similar vein to Antonin Scalia, he of the numerous interviews on Fox News.

  79. With all respect to your anecdote’s point, it’s important that someone point out (and it’s gonna be me) that the judge’s announcement was altogether improper. Oh, there’s an argument for going lighter on those who accept responsibility by admitting their guilt. But there’s no excuse whatsoever for imposing additional penalty on those who wish to exercise their constitutional right to make the government prove their guilt. And there’s certainly no excuse for announcing that a plea of not guilty will result in any punishment at all. That judge pre-judged.

    Here’s the thing. That judge’s faux transparency (I’ll explain why I’m violating your rights, but I won’t let on that I’m violating them) is exactly why it’s important for Judges to be truly open about what they’re doing.

    Pedal to the metal, Judge Kopf.

  80. Judge
    I am not a member of the legal or judicial profession, just an ordinary citizen. Giving nine unelected people the power that we have given the Supreme Court needs to be rethought. The number of 5-4 decisions highlights that these rulings have little to do with the Constitution but with furthering political, religious and economic ideology. Nine Federal Judges should be chosen by lottery to hear each case that the Supreme Court now hears and only be allowed to listen to one case per court session. While this will not limit the role of political, religious and economic ideology it will at least randomize it.

  81. Judge,

    It would be best if you stepped down from the bench and quietly retired. Justice Alito clearly wrote in his opinion:

    “The effect of the HHS-created accommodation on the women employed by Hobby Lobby and the other companies involved in these cases would be precisely zero. Under that accommodation, these women would still be entitled to all FDA-approved contraceptives without cost sharing.”

    As a judge, you should have been able to comprehend those two sentences. That you couldn’t shows you are past your expiration date.

  82. Your Honor, respectfully ask yourself whether you are a narcissist or you are writing your blog for a more noble purpose.

    Telling the Supreme Court to STFU smacks of someone who is looking for attention. Same with posting about being a dirty old man. That’s negative attention-seeking behaviour. That’s not cool. I suspect you know better.

    Many people seem to like your blog and appreciate your candor. It has obviously found a following with many people who consider it important.

    I hope you will continue to write the blog, but would also hope you will stay away from topics that appear to be written mainly to get a rise out of people.

    Creating debate is good; it’s healthy. Telling the Supreme Court to STFU is grossly over the line.

    If you continue to blog I suspect all your recent publicity will gather you an even larger audience. Ask yourself what you want them to take from your blog (especially young law students). Your writing serves great value if you use it to demystify the federal courts or to help fix the system where it is broken. That should be its purpose.

    If you are just using the blog because you get a charge out of reading angry comments directed at your sensationalist columns, maybe it’s time to hang it up.

    Here’s a thought: retire from the bench and write full time. Then you can say whatever the f**k you like.

    All the best,


  83. There is an arrogance and paternalism in your colleague’s statement: “…public trust and confidence in judges and, by extension, the law…” Especially after this ruling, there is little to no trust or confidence in the Supreme Court. An esteemed judge such as yourself calling a spade a spade actually helps rebuild trust. I suspect your post got into trouble because of the swearing – not the message.

  84. Good suggestion. I suspect it may be natural for trial judges to “go it alone” more than they have to.

    And I commend you, Judge Kopf, for posting the critical email and for thinking things over.

  85. Most judges should blog. The process of judging needs more openness, not less.

    I was in seminary before attending law school, and the processes were remarkably the same: the inculcation of a special way of thinking, a feeling of intellectual superiority, and the desire to keep it all secret lest the plebians see that we are, indeed, merely human.

    In the church, this has had terrible consequences now coming to light. In the judiciary, the consequences have been comparably devastating. The public now well understands that the highest court in the land simply rewrites the law to reach a desired result – this was made clear in the opinion justifying the stay in Bush v. Gore (which rewrote the law of the stay to give weight to a non-perfected interest in the Presidency, and to ignore the interests of opposing party) and made manifest when, three days after justifying Hobby Lobby on the basis of an opt-out provision, the Court authorized a plaintiff not to comply with the opt-out.

    Today’s American public are not children; we are capable of of understanding that judges have opinions and we need to hear them expressed honestly to have faith in their fairness. The public’s contempt for the high priesthood on the supreme court can be cured only my more openness, not less.

  86. Judge,

    If you’re blogging to voice your opinions as a human-being-slash-judge, warts and all, then don’t be discouraged when some folks don’t like the fact that, in the course of your blogging, you just so happen to expose some of your warts along with the “all.”

    (You do seem to do the appropriate thing and meditate on criticisms you receive when you reveal your warts. Hopefully this uncomfortable routine of self evaluation is ultimately a positive thing.)

    If you sometimes blog intemperate things, and this worries you, might I welcome you to the internet.

    A Millennial Lawyer (scary, I know)

  87. 1) this email was obviously written by a lawyer. It is verbose and meandering in the extreme.
    2) I much prefer a judge who speaks his mind to the close mouthed, close-minded, unethical idiots like Clarence Thomas.
    3). I have only just discovered your blog. Please don’t stop. Yes, Justice should be blind, not humorless or silent.

  88. Well I guess that’s that. You should send this nugget to the four SCOTUS judges who dissented. They too must be past their expiration dates.

    On a different note, before criticizing someone’s reading comprehension, you should make some effort at comprehending what you “read” and are now criticizing. Unless you are trying to be ironic, in which case my apologies.

  89. The outrage over “STFU” is as offensive as the “despotic behavior” of this Supreme Court.

    You go, Judge! William Shakespeare would agree.

  90. Dear Judge Kopf,

    I only found your blog due to the STFU comment and its broadcast across the internet. I spent several hours reading your words and your blog is bookmarked for further exploration both for its past and, hopefully, for its future postings.

    I disagree fundamentally with the Lawyer from Nebraska. Your blog is about the pursuit of justice by an all-too-fallible man – a man who understands the meaning of justice and that his attempts to render it perfectly will always be limited by the nature of humans and being human – and yet he tries still.

    The Lawyer from Nebraska seeks to restrain you because he believes that he (and you) belong to a priesthood which derives power by denying its humanity behind arrogant authority. As he says, “In order for our system to work, the public must know that a judge will decide matters thoughtfully, impartially, respectfully, and on the merits.”

    Yet we the public experience less than that ideal, failures both of judges and the system that they work within. For example: How many innocent people have been put to death or await that sentence still? Does OJ running free, Bush vs. Gore, or a long jail term for a drug mule contrasted against a short stint for a rapist, or the recent Hobby Lobby decision support or undermine his vision and our trust?

    The Lawyer from Nebraska desires that the public trust the judicial system yet denies our access to its workings. He requires that we set aside our experience and defer to unseen, higher authorities. His letter is lawyer-speak for “who are you going to trust – me or your lying eyes?”

    In our nation, in our justice system, secrecy is rightfully seen as the opponent of Truth and Justice. I do believe that someone once wrote that “sunlight is the best disinfectant.”

    Social systems that require the adherece of subjects who lack understanding and consent are doomed to fail. Your blog reminds me that justice cannot be left to a priesthood, but that the pursuit of justice is best undertaken by us all. Don’t stop now.

    Richard in Rhinebeck

  91. I’m a regular joe who read about your STFU comment on reddit and immediately sought you out. The first thing I saw was this abhorrently long lawyerese letter asking you to stop for the sake of grace or whatever.

    Regular people are uninterested and disconnected from the judicial and political system because the participants are boring. Nobody seems like a real person because they all put on professional airs that remove them from the reality of life. We are all flawed- people love TMZ because it shows the faults in our celebrity gods.

    Your blog gives a peak behind the perfect veil to the real people who make real decisions in an honest way. Maybe more average joes would be inclined to participate in an important civic system if the current participants were more open and honest like you.

  92. Dear Judge Kopf: As this evening progresses, the comments seem to become more inane and less helpful: “your blog crosses the line and violates the Code of Professional conduct;” “stop blogging and start behaving in a more judicial manner; “It would be best if you stepped down from the bench and quietly retired; “ask yourself whether you are a narcissist or you are writing your blog for a more noble purpose.”

    We are all (presumably) adults here. Perhaps the most common advice given to blog-readers is that they should stop reading if they don’t like what they read. And that’s my advice to those who think you’ve crossed some undefined line — go back to what you were reading before you heard about this cranky federal judge from Nebraska.

    And since this seems to be one of those rare occasions when a lowly lawyer can give advice to a judge, here’s mine: get well and keep writing whatever the hell you want to write.


  93. Judge,

    My life is very far removed from the law and courts. I’ll follow cases that interest me personally or are relevant to public policy which is why your blog somehow came to my attention. I appreciate the insight in to a world that I would otherwise be unaware of. Please keep blogging and speaking you mind within whatever ethical constraints govern you. You are providing a public service and I’d hate to see you stop.

    I wish you the best with your current health issues.

  94. I found your blog precisely because of the “STFU” entry. While I understand the importance of appearing unbiased and such, you are still an American and have the right to express yourself.

    I find it refreshing that a judge will take the time and share what’s going through his mind. After the initial post that brought me here, I read a few others, and I added your blog to my list that I follow on WordPress because of who you are and the insight you provide.

    In a country that, for all appearances, is stratifying into a caste system, I wish more judges, politicians, and others would open up their minds and let everyone know what they see, think, and feel. That’s just my $.02 anyway.

  95. The writer asks you to respect the law and then asks you to diminish the First Amendment by ending your speech and chilling the speech of countless others who read your blog.

    A more balanced approach is probably best. There are many great suggestions above. I don’t like the idea of third party editors, but a “rest” period before posting never hurts.

  96. My Brother Judge Kopf – there is much about you and your blog that I disagree with, however, the one thing I do agree with is your thoughts concerning our Supreme Court. Keep on blogging. The Supreme Court has become less and less relevant and, regrettably, more and more predictable. What do I mean – one would hope that intellectual honesty would lead some Justices to follow the law. But, just the opposite. We can reasonably predict where a justice will end up based upon his political/religious persuasion. That is regrettable. Follow your conscience, Judge Kopf, you add value to the Umited States through your blog!! Who’d have thunk it??

  97. In my opinion, by blogging your mind and heart on issues removes a big layer of mistrust that the public may hold for the judicial system. Judges are not meant to be infalable. If more judges could only learn from you that it is ok to sound human…. I never heard of this blog until I read the CNN story this evening. Going through your past posts, some I agree with….some I don’t. I, however, see nothing but good coming from an honorable man just speaking honestly….and given your stature, I sincerely hope that you can truly see the good that you are doing. An absolute breath of fresh air that this system has been sorely lacking! You have gained a loyal reader….don’t stop being who you are!

  98. I must strongly disagree with your Nebraska Lawyer friend and say this: If the justice system can not take your direct commentary on the state of it, then unfortunately I would have to infer that it is in very bad shape indeed. Your Nebraska Lawyer friend shows how little confidence he has in the system he purports to love so much.. I didn’t really the letter, all I need to know is he asked you to stop.

    Keep doing what you’re doing Kopf. You’re only verbalizing what millions, MILLIONS of Americans are thinking anyways. If that is so scary to people in the justice system then they are in a way complicit in a behavior that is bad for the justice system, not your commentary.

  99. Judge,

    The writer’s concern is overblown. This blog does “some good” way more than once in a while.

    Please keep writing. You don’t owe anyone anything, but you do way more good than harm with this blog, and as you can see above, the vast majority of your readers agree.

    “As the kids say,” was clearly designed to take any bite of the relatively inoffensive acronym. People who affirmatively look for harm can find it anywhere.

    I think your blog is extremely valuable to all readers – lay and lawyer, but especially to young people. I would also suggest the Pros vs Cons camp of you continuing the blog is at least partly divided by generation.

    The blog “Above the Law” receives 1 million unique visitors a month, and while some of the readers surely come for the snark, most visit because ATL has brought transparency to law schools, law firms, and legal practice. There are some drawbacks, but the legal profession is better for it. That’s why it’s required reading for prospective law students AND Biglaw managing partners.

    The Judiciary may be the third branch on paper, but it’s number one in our hearts. You are providing a great public service by sharing your thoughts so we can better understand our government.

  100. Mr Kopf,

    I respect you as you evaluate your motives and objectives of your blog. Self evaluation is difficult, and I hope you will take your respected colleague’s letter in full consideration. Because you posted your respected colleague’s letter, I see it has caused you serious reflection. I believe you can see the difference between the unsolicited letter from your respected colleague and most of the comments you are currently receiving in reply on this blog. I hope you listen to his wise observations and counsel. I believe you are similar to me in the respect that I am surrounded by a lot of self-serving, “yes”-people. Rarely do I receive unbiased, constructive feedback. But when one of my respected colleagues offers unsolicited advice, I listen and evaluate it for actual merit. Although I battle the pain of criticism, true evaluation of the criticism provides the perspective to help me avoid pitfalls in the future.

    I hope to offer you a bit of additional advice. I believe we can agree that part of the attraction to your blog is the position you currently hold as a judge. Many hold aloft your office as a federal judge to build credibility of your opinions and observations. Many (although not all) in the public may give greater weight to your opinions because of it. I believe holding your office as proof is at the root of the problem.

    I do not believe in censorship. Whether you continue blogging should be determined on your motives and objectives. If having a soundboard for discussion or public education is the motive, then I recommend you consider an alternative: start a new, anonymous blog eliminating any self-identifying features or referrals. If part of your motive is self-aggrandizement via blogging, then I believe you need to either 1) retire and continue your current blog, or 2) continue on the bench without blogging. In your self evaluation, consider what is driving you to blog.

    With Respect….MJ

  101. It seems to me that if you were interested in a balanced analysis of the decision, you would also have pointed out the potentially obvious issues associate with the four dissenters, 3 of whom are Jewish, 3 of whom are women and 1 of whom is a beta male…all appointed by Democrats. Why wouldn’t you be willing to advance the appearance of partisanship issue with respect to them?

    Or is it your view that in order to avoid even the appearance of improper motivation, the court should only announce their decisions when the mixture of votes more closely meets with your approval?

    Frankly, the VERY same criticism can easily be made of you. Shooting your mouth off about the decisions of more senior Article III judges renders every decision you make equally suspect, except more validly suspect.

    Heed your own advice. It’s entirely unworthy of a man in your position.


  102. Hey remember when all the opponents of the ‘Roe v. Wade’ decision talked to the media at length about why they hated the ruling?

    The point of the court is not to pay lip service to the 24-hour news cycle or get their Twitter followers up. They make decisions in the name of the LAW.

    They don’t need to be political about anything, they are there for life. And when a critic of them uses the ‘f’ word its not a bad thing. It is a celebration of his right to free speech same as me and you.

    Are you saying because of his profession you cannot have a public opinion or use profanity? The high court just decided that because you work at Hobby Lobby the rules are different for you now. Which is right?

    This blogger made a point and now we are saying that the same people who should know pornography when they see it should not be able to critique one another’s decisions?

    This whole debate is madness.

  103. I’m just the Average Joe. I have little exposure to the legal system and not to sure I’d want it. I found your blog through national news and the latest comment (STFU) that seems to have drawn attention to your site.

    Do continue your blog. It is the way laymen such as myself get painlessly educated about our legal system.

    Incidentally, I came to say thank you for what needed said. Today it seems common sense has left the halls of democracy. Someone has to say it in such a manner that they’ll hear it. They sure as heck aren’t listening to the man on the street when s/he voices his opinion.

  104. Please continue the Blog. Emotions run high but ir is your passion that makes your blog posts human.

  105. Honestly, the system is broken and no amount of silence will fix it. The public does not and will trust the justice system with good reason. There is far too much information available we see every screw up. Why in the world would an average person trust the government when they have the internet at their fingertips. Staying silent is not going to make the average person respect the system more, I would rather have someone speaking out from the inside than not.

  106. I like the fact that we get to see the human behind the curtain/robe. Your blog is a critical reminder that judges are people, and not dispassionate robots detached from reality and beholden to awkward, dangerous norms of self-regulation. If you think about it, what could be more important for democracy? I don’t agree with everything you say, but everything you say makes me think more deeply about important matters, and it inspires me to engage other, fellow citizens in spirited debate. Again, isn’t that what democracy is all about, or should be about? And what you say on your personal blog doesn’t undermine my trust that you will make sound decisions from the bench in the end. I know many people who use the public sphere as a sounding board for important inner dialogues. Things are often said in non-delicate ways to bring about clearer thinking, to inspire conversation and debate as ideas are formed, etc. You are a breath of fresh air in a culture of government where I don’t know who or what the hell I’m dealing with half the time, which is, in my view, contrary to true democracy and the pursuit of truth. For the sake of these things, don’t stfu.

  107. Pingback: Jordan Meyerowitz | Judge Might Give Up Blogging After Telling Supreme Court To ‘STFU’

  108. If you’ll examine RGK’s comment, he did not address the legal issues in the SCOTUS ruling, only the political dimension. He claims that from a policy perspective, a 5-4 decision coming entirely from the 5 Roman Catholic members is the sort of ruling that should be avoided.

    You don’t have to agree, but in that case, address the merits of the man’s argument. He wasn’t even addressing the merits of the case, just that the SCOTUS, like judges generally, avoid trouble by not reaching questions that they need not reach. In any case, RGK never came close to addressing the legal issues, so we have no way to know how he would have ruled on it if he had to. SCOTUS is a discretionary review court and didn’t have to.

  109. This has nothing to do with the 1st Amendment. Nobody is thinking of forbidding RGK to say anything. What is in question is what is wise to say, and to what degree, if any, RGK should stfu. I think only slightly if at all; others argue that he should. But this debate is unrelated to the 1st Amendment.

  110. I had not heard of your blog until today, July 7, 2014, when “Hercules & the Umpire” was shared in a FB group I frequent. After verifying your identity and learning you are not only one year older than I am, but that you were born in Toledo, OH, where I attended school from 1960 – 1963, I wondered if we might have attended the same schools, i.e., WJH & Whitmer HS.

    I am not an attorney, but as an HR professional who worked closely with a U.S. Civil Service attorney for 20 yrs, I am more aware of and sensitive to the concerns presented by your critic than the general public. He makes a compelling argument. At one point in my career I would have agreed with him; but with age comes wisdom. Physicians, judges and, lest we forget, priests, were once held in such high esteem in our culture that we thought they were infallible. But the world we live in and our perception of those professions has changed. I believe your individual reaction to the Hobby Lobby decision will not change our perception of judges one iota. Your perspective is simply the reaction of one more individual in a very polarized political climate. I applaud you for seeing yourself first as who your are and second as how you earn a living.

    By the way, I shared your “The Marble & the Sculptor” with a young attorney, who like Keith, also lives and practices in Alabama. From my perspective, that’s just one example of your blog doing some good.

  111. I think most of the criticism leved at you shold be extracted by the author and sent to Justice Scalia.

  112. P.S. I think of your blog as a display of courage in the modern era. I wonder if Fed Judge Frank M. Johnson, who showed the courage of his convictions and contributed so much to changing the landscape of Alabama during the civil rights era, albeit with much higher stakes, would be writing a blog today.

  113. “We all go through periods where we have to step back, blog lightly, and figure out what we’re about. That’s part of blogging.” True. Step back, if you must, but please do not stop.

    I might add that it appears you have written only two controversial posts, Your Honor. There is so much more to your blog than those two posts.

    For example, the posts that document your difficulties working while being treated for cancer. Those are inspirational. I believe they are also therapeutic.

    I continue to sing in the chorus that wishes you well and hopes you keep blogging without anymore than your usual restraint.

  114. The sad fact, too, is that many of the defendants in her courtroom will have legitimate concerns about the way the police conducted themselves…

    …and they are basically being threatened by the judge with harsher punishments if they dare to speak up about those transgressions.

    The judge is supposed to be the buffer between the public and the police, but this judge obviously views herself as nothing more than a judicial rubber stamp.

  115. Please keep making your posts and Thanks for your work in making your thoughts public. Your post lets me know that I am not alone in my belief the SCOTUS is seriously out of touch with the state it is charged to lead. The Hobby Lobby majority block makes SCOTUS untrustworthy in my opinion. Justice Ginsburg cautions that we should be “…mindful of the havoc the Court’s judgment can introduce…”, The debate here about whether you should or should not post your blog is but one example of that havoc SCOTUS is causing. Courts are leading institutions and showing the sharp and nearly equally divided opinions within leadership, whether it be court, legislature, church, or family, is unsettling to the following institutions like schools and police. When it is obvious that making a decision will harshly split the group into nearly equal sized factions, it is better to avoid forcing a decision to be made so that bitter fracturing of the unity in the body of followers can be lessened or even prevented. Therefore, I believe that you are correct in advising SCOTUS to take it easy, to not decide highly controversial cases (most of the time) if the Court can avoid the dispute. But either way, please keep making your posts.

  116. Dear Judge Kopf:

    I’ve read through the comments here, the anti-, the middle and the go for its. I have only this to say: Federal judges are the only members of the government who can’t be fired, retired or voted out of office. You have life tenure. You are the only ones with the freedom to express viewpoints without fear of retaliation. Please keep writing, because what this country needs is more discourse, not less.

    I disagree with your friend, it should come as no shock to anyone that a judge is indeed capable of imposing a rule he or she disagrees with. That the same judge is allowed to publicly criticize the very same rule says something about the great freedom of our nation.

  117. The link to “NE judge say Supreme Court should have…” is a link to, a tool of Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity which, in turn, which has been reported to be enabled by money from Sam Adams Alliance, Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, Donors Trust organizations. I question the ideology of the publisher of this news story to which the link connects. It seems to me like an unwarranted attack on this blog. I hope people who follow that link to Nebraska Watchdog are discerning readers.

  118. To Judge Richard Kopf:

    I’ve never heard of you before this day, your name still sounds quite foreign even after hearing your story from several media outlets. I don’t write from the perspective of someone familiar with the legal system or an angry reader or political adversary. I write to you as a young American who appreciates the bravery it took- not to say what was said, but to do it in a way that speaks to the entire country. How many other judges got such impassioned feedback, how many prompted dinner table conversations, or twitter retweets? Far fewer than you. It is your job to pass judgment and take an unflinching look at laws that are protected, if they’re still protecting us, the people put in place to uphold those laws, should they give way to defenseless people, and so on and so forth. If people don’t value your opinion, why then are so many so upset? Its because you chose to share your judgment with an infinite audience and if you aren’t silenced now, soon others will share this opinion as well. Or not, they could completely turn on you. Either way all of us heard what that opinion is an have been moved. The internet is an equalizer and though we have all put you on trial it would be really tragic if that made you put down your gavel.

  119. Dear whoever you think you are, This isn’t about you. If it were, I promise that none of us would try to dissuade you from abandoning your blog. I suggest seeing a psychiatrist about the borderline personality disorder characteristics you’re exhibiting.
    A Whole World Of No

  120. The lawyer’s note to you is well-reasoned and has changed my mind from my initial ‘oh, what’s the harm’ reaction when I read the story.

    The notion of the populace expecting a certain decorum from the bench does seem to outweigh a judge’s desire to be heard other than through the strength of their rulings on cases.

    A church friend of mine is a Federal Magistrate. I’ve known the man for almost 25 years and in his case it would be completely out of character for him to speak out like this, even in casual conversation. Just would never happen….

    There are, however, in our country’s past those few on the bench who were and are thought of and remembered as ‘colorful’, though they did not have the immediacy of the internet to show impact so quickly in the way a viral posting can spike public response as it can today.

    Your work, I am sure, is top quality. My wife would just tell both you and me to stfu and get back to work and to stop stroking our egos or other things (sic!), possibly jeopardizing our career and their pension!

    Best and warm regards to you. Rule objectively, always! (Yes, the SCOTUS got the Hobby Lobby ruling wrong but….now we have to figure out how to fix that legislatively, one supposes)

  121. Your blog is sui generis. It fills an important and otherwise unfulfilled need. The insight into the workings, thoughts, feelings and humanity of a trial judge- with all of your wisdom, experience and self admitted foibles is invaluable. You have brought a third depth of perception to how lawyers often cavalierly label judges: “defense oriented” or “prosecution oriented”. I know for a fact your blog is eagerly read by several of the more thoughtful and conscientious judges in Miami. Please do not stop blogging.

  122. Pingback: Judge Kopf and the Appearance of Impropriety | Simple Justice

  123. I have no problem with your blogging. I enjoy reading it, I disagree with you often and still enjoy your style. Keep it up, Your Honor.

  124. So, I’m an attorney too, utterly frustrated with the state of the judiciary in this nation (along with the other branches of the federal government) and as much as I concur with your position and reasoning in your post, I reluctantly have to concur also with your correspondent. It’s totally not your message. It’s the fact that as a member of the judiciary you are probably disqualified from being the messenger for the reason both you and he articulate: the appearance of bias. For the same reason, however, members of the SCOTUS should also abstain from articulating their opinions on public speaking tours. Hopefully, your correspondent will be moved to send a similar letter to Justice Scalia.

  125. dear embarrassedforyou:

    – how dare you – code of professional conduct, my eye, who are you kidding ? the practicing attorneys I know use the f bomb every other word in public, in the office, in front of clients, women,and certainly to each other – furthermore – any case the blogging judge hears could not possibly be as compromised as the 5 Supremes position -so you STFU

  126. I recommend that you take the advice from the lawyer from Nebraska – it’s good counsel.

  127. July 8, 2014

    Dear Hon.Judge Kopf,

    RE: Your Hobby Lobby Blog Comments

    The lawyer who wrote you asking you to stop blogging is very wrong. One wonders if he also wrote the Hon. Judge Ginsburg asking her to stop her dissent !

    What you have written; what District Judge Rakoff did with reference to Wall Street Banks; what Judge Leon has done with reference to unconstitutional surveillance of Americans, if anything, has built confidence in the Federal District Judges, while what the five Supreme Court Justices have done again, and again, has shown those Justices to appear to “we the people” as corrupt, biased, and not worthy of being on the High Court.

    We the people now are depending on the lower Judges of the Federal District Courts to show the way and combat the corruption of the Supreme Court.

    Thousands of people do follow and understand what is being done in the Courts now more than ever before because of Social Media such as Twitter which is filled with discussion of court decisions, some irreverent, some quite serious and educational.

    If the lawyer who wrote you thinks anything will again build trust in the Supreme Court as long as those five are on it, and after their rulings on Voting Rights, Citizens United, and Hobby Lobby, he is living in his own bubble. Most shocking to anyone is the fact that Scalia and Thomas did not recuse themselves from Citizens United, after partaking financially of the largesse of a party connected to the lawsuit, nor did Chief Justice Roberts suggest or insist they do so. It didn’t go unnoticed that Justice Sotomayor and Justice Kagan recused themselves from cases to which they had prior relationship. People are not stupid, but those on the Supreme Court who have abused the trust of the people again and again, and think they can get away with it, are. It is they who have destroyed trust and confidence in the High Court, not your blog.

    There is a movement to have certain of the Justices removed from the Court through impeachment, joining Justice Sam Chase of 1805; perhaps not achievable with this current House of Representatives, but within 6 months time, matters could change in the make-up of the House. With 56 million single voting women in this country, the five Justices should have known ” Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned”.

    To allow some foolish lawyer, afraid of his own shadow, to infuence you “to be a proper fall in lockstep” Judge, is not going to help or change the people’s opinion of those five miscreants on the Supreme Court.

    Your voice, speaking plain common sense and truth with humor, would be a great loss. If you don’t follow Twitter, you might try it. You have become a hero, as has Hon.Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and the other Judges I’ve mentioned. If anything, the Judges who do speak out, gain trust in part of the Justice system, which otherwise is viewed as broken since the Supremes took the choice of a President away from the voters and more recently failed to jail the US bankers who caused the world wide depression, most especially hurting Main Street and so especially rankling.

    Please dont stop your blog..which gives hope and a sense of humanity in the Courts to “we the people”..

    Sincerely and Respectfully,

    J. Kelligesq

  128. Please don’t stop blogging! Everyone benefits when criticism is shared in a constructive manner.

  129. I Mia disagree with your lawyer friend. Don’t mistake censorship with towing the line. We see this type of self-censorship in corporate America but it should never be the case for a ruling body.

    With or without your blog, the American people know that the court is extremely biased across party lines and currently does not give a “fair and impartial” response.

  130. Your Honor,

    STFU! No seriously. STFU. Clearly you’re one of those anti-papist that still have not gotten over the fact Protestanism has failed, and you thus obfuscate your bigotry within the niceties of legal lingo and judicial disagreement.

    I regret that I do not appear regularly in front of your bench, ’cause telling you to, respectfully, STFU during arguments would be worth the contempt fine…..which I would gladly double in amount (and add “to that bigot asshole”) in the memo line of the check.

  131. Rich:

    Sometimes, you can only see the path you walked when you stop, turn around, and follow where your footprints strayed. This medium encourages the stray and discourages the turning around.

    I think you should take a peek.

  132. You really need to “stfu” yourself, judge. When you accepted your appointment you accepted the idea of providing fairness without bias. The trouble is, you are an arrogant jerk who thinks your opinions are important to others – outside of your robes. I would never want to have you deciding my case because you decide them before hand. We could almost always figure out how you’d decide based on your idiotic rants. To me you have two choices, stfu or resign. Anything other than those two decisions leaves you a biased, arrogant jerk who thinks they’re more important than those who come before you.

  133. Dear Judge Kopf: You might want to consider closing this thread to additional comments. It appears that the lunatics have escaped and taken over the computer room at the asylum.


  134. I found your blog through CNN’s article about your reaction to the court’s ruling. As a member of the younger generation who is himself educated on the American government( and all our lovely branches and those branches intricacies) I felt the need to comment on this post.

    I often use my Facebook as a soap box for myself, I don’t know how to set up a blog and I don’t really have the time either, but I find myself frequently shouting at the wind when moments like the Hobby Lobby case happen. I am a conservative, I am a Republican, none of those things should matter when it comes to the bill of rights and the ideals of this country. I love this country and I am very passionate about our government and the many nuances of our system, and when I see things like this, that passion comes out. What the older generations and in many ways our society in general fail to understand is that profanity is a form of expression. The words have a purpose, a true meaning. There are emotions that you cannot express without these words and they convey so much more than the simpler counterparts you could use in their stead. Profanity is powerful, it bears weight. “Shut the fuck up” is not saying simply “Be quiet.” or “Shush”, it is saying in so few words what paragraphs would otherwise be needed to express.

    Knowing that there is at least one other judge outside of the 4 dissenters who have not gone off their rockers is comforting. Please continue to do what you’re doing.

  135. Dear Judge Kopf: I urge you in the strongest terms to continue your blogging on such topics and to what point and tone you deem fitting. I have shared and referred some of your posts with nonlawyer friends, who have responded uniformly to the effect, “it’s good to know its a human being up there.” Granted it is a small sampling but it supports the conclusion that your efforts are indeed promoting and advancing understanding of the judiciary and judicial system. And I agree with your observations about the utterly astounding Hobby Lobby case.

  136. Keep blogging…people seem less able to handle active disagreement these days.

    Isn’t that a shame?

    You expressed your views and I have no problem with that.

  137. dont retire, write actively while on the bench and certainly dont write just for “young law students” .

    write for the people.

  138. Why do you care what Lawyer from Nebraska says? After all, he only cares about how the public perceives you, other judges, lawyers, and the legal system. You have your celebrity to worry about. I, for one, am delighted that now everyone knows what you really think and who you really are.

  139. I find your blog exactly the reason all judges (including federal) should have to campaign for their positions. Judges bring their demeanor, personal beliefs, opinions and biases to the bench but the public doesn’t know what those are. If judges campaigned (or blogged) we’d likely elevate the talent in the judiciary because voters would be educated. So I commend you on your blog, it shows the public that the judiciary are just like us.

    However, there are judicial ethics rules. I do think you ethically crossed the line on your opinions about women lawyer’s dress and the F word is always un-judicial. The appearance of bias is all over this blog. If the ethics rules are antiquated then get rid of them, the uneducated public should not be fooled into thinking judges are held to a higher standard only to discover ethics rules are made to be broken.

    The truth is if a NE lawyer blogged about a NE judge like this, or about fellow lawyers, they’d have ethics charges filed against them. Should the NE public do the same, they are retaliated against by the legal system.

    It’s good to be an appointed, opinionated federal judge with an uncensored blog.

  140. I was in New Zealand, and got the same reaction. Our entire court system is looking more like that of the Sudan.

    “Your courts don’t have to follow precedent?”
    “No, and they often don’t.”
    “How can you have a rule of law?”
    “We don’t. We are ruled by judges.”

  141. The people know that the Emperor has no clothes. What judges do speaks so loudly that their attempts to justify it ring hollow. There is not enough candor, and the loss of this blog will only make matters worse.

  142. Our judiciary is no longer an institution worthy of respect. It is the joke of the rest of the civilised world.

  143. Respect is earned, and it can also be squandered. If judges can’t be candid about the failures of their system, how can we respect them?

  144. The bar has become obsequious. Judges won’t criticize their own. The people see this conspiracy of silence, and what it has wrought. I don’t think there is enough candor here.

  145. I disagree. Our system is built upon 1. checks and balances and 2. freedom of speech. Who to better display this than a judge? We are accustomed to verbal battles and even personal attacks between congress people, senators and even presidents. Why shouldn’t justices be given the same treatment? To think scrutiny will somehow shake the public’s faith in the justice system is absurd!! NEWS FLASH: the entire system is built upon the premise that people will disagree and take action. Hence the appellate and supreme courts. However, what happens when the Supreme Court itself is flawed?? We must then use our voices, speak out and compell congress to act (though probably not THIS congress). You MUST keep speaking out. Voices MUST be heard. It’s how change happens.

  146. That is the scandal: That a federal judge would suggest that our rights should be sacrificed on the altar of the reputation of his institution.

    Has the Judge forgotten why he is there?

  147. “[A judge] has no right and no power to withhold the application of one single principle of law, to a single case over which he has jurisdiction;  he has no dispensation, justifying or excusing an omission to apply the law.”

    Not any more! Therein lies the problem. Judges can do whatever they want because their colleagues won’t criticize them for it, and the bar is too afraid of reprisals to criticize them for it.

  148. These days, in all but the most mundane cases, we all know what a judge will do before he does it. If it involves the powers of the judiciary, he will enhance them. If it affects his patrons, he will aid them. If binding precedent gets in the way, it will be ignored. If facts get in the way, they will be changed.

  149. I feel so blessed to have you as a federal judge in the great state of Nebraska and moreover publicly speaking out against the ruling handed down by SCOTUS. I believe that this case was wildly inappropriate, judicial over-reach, and damning to women everywhere as it opens the door for every corporation to claim religious freedoms; and not just in the arena of birth control. As a scientist and as a woman I am ashamed of the lack of education and understanding by millions of individuals claiming to know better than physicians. I know that you have been asked to stop blogging because it is damning to the judicial system, but I have to strongly disagree. It is our responsibility to question the system, draw attention to damaging laws! Please dont stop!

  150. In the words of Justice Jackson, “if the patriots of 1776 risked little by action, we risk much by indifference.” I think you are too solicitous of your colleagues and could find more courage, but a little candor is better than stony silence your friend counsels. Keep on blogging.

  151. Whomever was the lawyer that wrote that letter has exposed the very nature of being a judge. More often than not, judges use their personal affiliations, politically, as well as their disdain for other people’s beliefs to tramp on the will of the people, and to not enforce the law as designed. Many of these judges, as RGK shows, believe their single personal opinion is wiser than the thoughtful considerations of millions, and lack common sense when it comes to where the problem lies in our societies, blaming everything on things like, “…gotta catch up with the times” as if “the times” have always brought us the best life has in store for us, far from it.

    If I were to need a lawyer for any reason, I would like to have one like the one who wrote the letter. I’ve never thought much of lawyers, but I’m sure there are some who truly believe in the good they can do by doing their job with integrity and wisdom, a trait and qualify rarely found in the Federal judges these days.

  152. Please keep writing & posting. One of the things that makes me have LESS respect for the judiciary is the extreme degree of secrecy & closed-mouthed-ness about the thought processes behind the rulings (inexplicable as they often are). There is nothing perfect or god-like about any segment of our society, not priests, not doctors, and not judges. It is refreshing & indeed reassuring to hear your commentary – there’s a reason “behind the scenes” features on released-to-retail movies are so popular.

    Also: I am old enough to have watched the series L.A. Law when it first came out. As a feminist who grew up in the ’60’s, I was absolutely shocked at the attire of the female attorneys. Who, I thought, would go to court wearing skin-tight pencil skirts, low-cut blouses and spike heels? How ridiculous. How disrespectful of them to dress their female attorneys like male fantasy objects. Fast forward 30+ years, and it’s routine for women to dress exactly in that style for their work day. I’m not talking about fashion or entertainment industry work (where the nature of the industries might actually make such garb appropriate), I’m talking about sober, intellectual occupations where you would hope a woman would want to be judged by the quality of her work, not by her appearance. If that sounds unfair, picture a male attorney showing up in court in a fashionably slim-cut suit, one of those currently popular tight suits with ankle length pants, combined with a brightly colored shirt & color coordinated footwear. Maybe throw in a bowtie & earrings. None of these would be out of place in many professions, especially in the fashion or entertainment industries. In fact, such style in your office wear would be almost a prerequisite. But in court? I think the predominant reaction would be does he WANT his client to lose? As someone with a background in both theater & therapy, I wholeheartedly endorse Shakespeare’s well-known line “all the world’s a stage, and the men and women merely players.” Everyone telegraphs messages about themselves with their attire, at work or offtime, in social situations or just running errands. It’s a constant almost unconscious calculus going on. You can take the position that you don’t care what others’ appearance-based judgments of you are, but you can’t claim it’s non-existent. To deny that is to deny reality. Decades and volumes of research supports this conclusion.

    Finally, your critic said you engaged in “course” sexual comment; by so doing, he shows either a lack of sophistication (not knowing the difference between “course” and “coarse”) or a lack of attention to detail (failing to proof his missive and depending on auto-correct). In either case he betrays a lack of intellectual rigor, and his opinion’s worth is diminished.

  153. Pingback: I Disapprove of What You Say, But I Will Never Tell You to STFU*. | hawg law blawg

  154. The writer may be correct as a general rule, but the question is: can a point be reached when criticism of SCOTUS is an obligation. It seems it has. The person on the street (me, for instance) is now viewing them as buffoons. Most of us have contempt of court long before we ever enter any courtroom.

  155. Most likely most of you here have never heard of me and my legal wranglings. I’ve been compelled to sue Romney (and a plethora of cohorts) for civil RICO (as permitted under U.S. Supreme Ct Sedima v Imrex).

    In our many cases and trials we have seen a vast array of acts that lay waste the integrity of the judicial process for the sake of veiled agendas (as the Hobby Lobby case doth prove greatly).

    Issues of “Color of Law” are Civil Rights violations;
    and that’s what the Hobby Lobby case exemplifies absurdly!

    During my 12 years of battling Romney and Bain Capital; we’ve had a Circuit Court stipulate the FRAP don’t apply to bankruptcy cases

    Click to access 3rdCircuit_Ruling_FRAP_doesNOTapply.pdf

    in the related Tom Petters Ponzi case – Petters attorney (Kelley Wolter firm);
    switched sides and was appointed Federal Receiver of Petters Ponzi.

    Who then was also allowed to become bankruptcy trustee over the cases also.

    And the Mandatory Victim Restitution Act (MVRA) was expunged
    (as the Asst AUSA head of Criminal Division own brother was involved).

    There’s also a Chief Justice federal (BK) who said we must have her permission to inform her about the “fraud on the court” by “officers of the court” (who had already confessed supplication of 33 erroneous affidavits deliberately left to stand before the court).

    Then Her Honor (sic) stipulated

    “If there’s nothing else, I’m going to get back to Tweeter”.

    Click to access Transcript_Hearing_2009_eToys_JudgeMFW_says_she_is_going_back_to_Twitter.pdf


    Please – PLEASE – in the name of all things good and sacrosanct;

    Do Not Refrain from doing the right thing.

    You are a patriotic justice who dares to be frank and call into question – the questionable.

    We need many more such as thee!

  156. I’ve been practicing for only about five years now in Michigan, and I have to say that there seems to be a gap between the younger lawyers and the older lawyers in how we feel about things like this. The Old Guard prefers that judges remain silent about their thought processes and very careful about what they say in order to appear thoughtful, unbiased, tempered and professional. It is the traditional way of thinking. The younger lawyers in my generation on the other hand prefer bluntness and openness about a person’s feelings, because it helps us gauge the kind of person we’re dealing with.

    Certain kinds of thought processes and biases don’t cease to exist just because they’re not expressed, and they are not acted upon just because they are spoken. It is possible to set aside how one personally feels in making one’s decisions whether those thoughts are spoken or hidden. But the way one speaks can provide insight into the type of person a judge is. No doubt people will seek to game that system wherever possible, and I’d expect no less, but that door swings both ways. Both sides can use that knowledge to their advantage. And both sides run the risk that they’re going to lose because regardless of how a judge feels about an issue, he chooses as he must to follow the law.

    I want to be a judge. I’d like more to be a federal judge, but I don’t know any congressmen or senators that can get me there, but I will probably be running for a state court judgeship at some point. While I will probably not be blogging about the judiciary, I’ve never been overly shy in saying if I think a decision was wrongly decided, but if I’m bound by it, then I’m bound. What else can I do? I’m not going to stop giving my political or personal legal views because I become a judge. I just won’t allow them to interfere with my decision making. I think you’ve done a good job in doing just that. If people in the system will not speak up, who will? Ideally, this problem has to be fixed from partly within the judiciary, because Congress is not going to act until people in the system start complaining and making their displeasure known.

    So, in conclusion, I think this blog is an invaluable resource for providing an insider’s view on the system. I think that a judge’s personal views on the system itself and its shortcoming is essential for the public to see that they are not alone in thinking that the system has abandoned them or that it is broken and needs fixing or that courts are “getting it wrong” sometimes. I think in modern society, it’s a good thing to be aware that courts are getting it wrong, because you can fix a system that you know is broke, but it’s impossible to fix one where everyone keeps trying to create an illusion of perfection from within. Please don’t stop publishing.

  157. Let’s recap: The Supreme Court decided a case where the outcome turned on two statutes. A majority of the Court applied the statute as written. The dissent claimed that the Court should have found an exception to the plain language of the Dictionary Act and RFRA.

    Whichever side is correct, I find it unbelievable that someone – a judge no less – could suggest that applying a statute according to its terms is somehow a form of judicial activism.

    If Judge Kopf disagrees with the opinion, then perhaps he can make the argument for the judicial activism that would have been required to reinterpret the plain language of the law. Maybe he can make a reasoned pitch for a different outcome. After all, he’s a judge and presumably familiar with the law. He has the tools to make his case.

    But, instead, he issued an anti-intellectual screed using the “(straw) man on the street” as a prop. And, that prop relieves the judge of the burden of rational thought and allows him to assume the deliberate ignorance that serves as the foundation for his post.

    If the “everyman” mistakenly believes that the Court is motivated by gender, politics or religion, then the solution is to explain why the everyman is wrong. It is not to lend credence to that view by suggesting that the Supreme Court should STFU.

    All that said, however, I don’t think Judge Kopf should shutter his blog. That’s absurd. Instead, I would simply ask that he reconsider his wrong-headed position. This blog is supposedly about the experience of a federal judge. I appreciate that aspect, even when presented in a PG-13 manner.

    But, at the end of the day, we don’t need a federal judge to take off his robes and put on pretend stupidity. The world already has enough of the real thing.

  158. This is an interesting question. I would merely respond that, as a person of considered logic, I would assume that you would agree with the notion that a poorly defended argument is often worse than no argument. To that end, and to the end that you seem to view public perception as an important component of being a judge, I would say that there are circumstances that, upon an admittedly cursory view, seem to run contrary to both the public perception and the poorly defended position stances.

    With this being said, I, personally, see no harm in the existence of a judge sharing his thoughts (be they professional or otherwise). To reconcile the want for public contact and the (possibly) cathartic release of venting to a public forum, I would humbly suggest that you consider the following:

    – Make your opinions public (as you are), but do not expound upon the whys and wherefores.


    – Detail, meticulously, your opinion as if you had been in position of the target of your opinion (that feels like a lot of work).


    – Restrict your blogging to other pursuits (topics not related to your profession).

    Peeking behind the curtain, as it were, whether accurate or not, is the likely outcome of this blog. I know that, when I read it, I feel as though I am gathering insight that judges might use to reach a considered opinion. While I know extrapolating one individual’s thoughts to a larger pool is wildly inaccurate, it is something I view as amusing diversion — with the added bonus of erudite references and interesting insights for further pondering on my own time.

    That said, you satisfy my own level of required points for public complaint: cite the problem, show examples, suggest a correction. So long as these three things are satisfied, I have no qualms (though my agreement is, obviously, less than automatic).

    In the end, if you feel a need to adjust he methods and topics of your blog, I would urge you not to cease all activity, but to consider adjustments such as the suggestions above.

  159. One of the greatest choices anyone can make is to speak out against injustice. It’s what made America. I can understand the writer in his belief and admiration for this current system, but, for the majority of us, we can recognize that the supreme court’s decision on the “Hobby Lobby case” is unjust. So this tells me, regardless of your blog, that this current system isn’t working properly. Don’t get me wrong, this current system has a lot of good qualities, but it needs improvement.

    Your action to speak out against this injustice is what is needed. Not speaking out puts you on the side of injustice. Because, by doing nothing, injustice continues.

    I hope you hear the many voices across America who support your blog post (via comments on CNN and other media feeds). I hope this surge of support will help other judges speak out. Then, with enough voices, things can improve.

  160. Kopf’s “stfu” and other sophisticated expressions of disdain is just what the justice system needs — the promotion of more disrespect. In your quest to accomplish that goal for all our young people to consider and to promote thumbing their noses at our Constitution and laws, Judge, from your self-important high perch, you scored a touchdown! Congratulations.

  161. I understand both sides of this argument, and objectors are arguing we should continue with the secrecy for the appearance of impartiality.
    In some respects it reminds me of the way people treated doctors decades ago.

  162. I clerked on a federal court of appeals and have practiced for over 40 years. I don’t vote on whether you should stop, but, if you continue, I urge you to drop the obscenities. These verbal crotch-grabbings demean the performance and make readers question your maturity and judgment. Your otherwise graceful writing will thank you for it.

  163. Oh that’s nonsense and you know it. The last thing young people need to be doing is feeding the idea that the rich and powerful should be able to purchase justice as they have done for the last decade under the current SCOTUS. That’s all this Court has been doing for at least that long now, and it’s much worse than it used to be.

    SCOTUS hasn’t been about learned interpretations of the Constitution for years now. It’s merely another political tool where the people sitting on it get to remain there for life instead of being able to be kicked out. It is absolutely absurd that corporations should count as people, have unlimited political lobbying power and speech and be permitted to exercise religious beliefs that they can then force on their employees. 40 years ago, such a concept would have been laughed out of the courtroom, but when you have idealogues on either side of the fence running it, legal decisions become political ones.

    It is not thumbing one’s nose at the Constitution and the laws to hold that corporations, which exist at the whim of the state as is, and are primarily used to insulate their owners from liability, are not persons. Most of the people on that side of the issue are also strangely enough in favor of granting corporations the power to vote in elections as well. But you have to remember, back when corporations were first created in the states, they were for the most part looked down upon and even reviled to some extent. The idea of granting a corporation the right to exercise political speech or religion would have been so unbelievably repugnant at the time the founding fathers drafted the Constitution that it would have probably torpedoed the whole thing.

    The whole concept is ludicrous, but it’s not something that can be fixed through the legislature, because the one constant in our system is that to get power in the legislature, first you have to have money, but you can’t get that money unless you agree to help the rich and powerful achieve what they want. This is true no matter which side of the aisle you’re on. It’s just that one side of the aisle seems to be less greedy from a personal angle than the other. The executive has tried to fix the problem as best it can wherever possible, but the Court keeps stopping it every step of the way.

  164. If the legitimacy of the judicial branch of the government (or indeed, of the state in its entirety) is a worry of this particular lawyer, then I suspect he’s got it backward.

    Learning of your blog on CNN and reading your response to recent rulings has given me—for the first time in many years—some sense that there are some few exceptions (yourself being one of them) to the rule of the bought-and-paid-for ideological apparatchik in our system of government.

    Whether that’s a good thing or not, I’m not sure. By and large (and I’m not an uneducated person—I hold a Ph.D. in the social sciences) I tend to believe that the system is almost entirely corrupt and ideologically blinkered and very, very significant reform is necessary if this society is to remain durable as it is currently constituted. So in the longer term sense, by acting as a bulwark against the total collapse of judicial legitimacy (as a part of the larger collapse of state legitimacy) you may in fact be doing harm by delaying the collapse and reformulation of state.

    But certainly this lawyer and others have it backward. The rank and file are only too painfully aware that the *last* function of government (including the judiciary) at the moment is the delivery of justice.

    Your words are out of place precisely because they appear to be just and human on their face.

    This critic appears to suffer from the same misperception that characterizes so many that are effectively a part of “the system.” They presume that the public doesn’t know any better. Oh, but the public does. They’re simply powerless to do anything at all about it as a matter of structural realities, which is certainly amongst the many, many reasons for the collapse in state and judicial legitimacy in the present.

  165. Judge:

    I have been practicing law for more than 15% of the time that the Constitution has existed.

    You should keep posting.

    There should be NOTHING mysterious or secret about the “dispensation” of justice (“. . .throughout the land, and to all the inhabitants thereof . . .”).

    I have always felt that non-jury trials were great because you could ask the factfinder what questions they had.

    It seems your critics are MOST concerned about using obscenities or admitting publically that you are attracted (in a small way) to the opposite sex.

    Seems to me they just want you to be hypocritical. I personally have known for a long time that Judges are just people, too. Expecting something different is simply delusional; urging secrecy and concealment regarding how Judges do their jobs is defensive, elitist, somehow conspiratorial and, IMO, counter-productive.

    For example, I have long decried the illusionary security at our Courthouses – State and Federal. After all, shouldn’t the people going to the Courts be anxious to do so, in order to have their complaints/issues finally decided in a just manner? I naturally recognize that there are exceptions for individual cases, such as domestic or criminal matters, that may indeed create security issues – but they should be decided on a case-by-case basis.

    Transparency regarding the judicial process should be willingly and enthusiastically embraced. If we need to shroud the process in secrecy and mystery, then, IMO, something is very wrong and perhaps the entire process should be replaced with a new process that CAN be open to public and professional examination and discussion.

    Just my .02.

    Russ Carmichael

  166. I echo the sentiments of many here. As a female attorney in Nebraska, I actually appreciate your candor and many of the comments you have made (particularly about staring down shirts and looking up skirts) have made me rethink some of my wardrobe choices and the image I give off. This is not a bad thing. Knowing that a federal judge has the courage to use such candor does not, I think, cause harm to the profession. I think it makes you accessible to the public, it let’s them know that you are human and that they can expect a human being in your courtroom. If you must tone down the language then so be it, but I think it is refreshing to read your blog.

  167. Judge,

    Cast my vote with “blogging should continue and restraint may need to be shown” crowd. The “stfu” post was jarring, as I’m sure it was meant to be, and should not set the tone for future commenting on your part. (I doubt your critics had the same reaction to Justice Scalia’s use of an obscene gesture toward the media in 2006.) Every once and while, the truth needs to be said in the most base terms, and you should consider your quota filled until January 20, 2017. (You deserve to have the field open again to comment appropriately on the next President, whomever he or she may be.)

    Your blog, though, is invaluable and serves an important role in promoting the public’s understanding of the judiciary. Those of us who clerked for your peers on the federal district bench have observed the care with which decisions are made and the angst that impinges on your decisionmaking in so many cases (criminal and civil) that shape people’s lives. Meanwhile, certain sectors of the media and the internet prefer to paint a portrait of a black-robbed elite determined one or another to shape the country in the mold on one ideology or another. Please don’t give up on the task of exposing that portrait as a lie.

    I might add, for what it’s worth, that your primal scream at the Supreme Court over Hobby Lobby was justified for a reason you don’t really mention: the opinion is a mess that kicked any number of questions back down to your docket. What does it take to be “closely held” enough to qualify for RFRA protection? (Justice Alito ducked this.) Are other medical procedures subject to religious objection? (Justice Alito addressed immunizations squarely, but not other procedures, like blood transfusions, for which his reasoning provides no clear answer.) Will employees be able to raise challenges to the health plans at their employers that comply with the ACA contraceptive mandate, on the grounds that RFRA also gives them a right to avoid paying (through their employee premiums) for certain contraceptives? (Not at issue in the case, but an obvious next step by those running the organized campaign aginst the mandates under ACA.) Are other legal requirements, such as anti-discrimination laws, open to challenge? (Justice Alito ruled out a challenge to race discrimination laws, but religious exemptions to protections for gays are already being requested in the wake of the opinion.) So, not only did the Court foolishly answer the doorbell and stomp its foot on the metaphorical bag of flaming dog poop left on its front stoop, it left the clean up to you and your colleagues. Good luck with that.

  168. We must bend our knee to the great court.
    They are THE Supremes, our masters.
    We must all bow before the almighty.

    Now we know that the great court is the wizard behind the curtain, offering a theatrical interpretation of a high court.
    Corporations are not mentioned in the Constitution, …. or in the Bible.
    They are an artificial creation with special privileges not available to humans.

    The touchdown was scored by the 5 old conservative Catholic Republican politicians.
    They took the reputation and standing of the Court and flushed it down the toilet.
    We all understand the fear of the supporters of this Court faction and their action. They realize that it is garbage, that it damages the standing of the Court, and fear the loss of their new status.

    They and The Five are pitiful, bring shame on The Court, bring shame on our justice system, and bring shame on America.
    The Hobby Lobby’s Green family may rejoice, the pseudo-religious patriarchal corporations may rejoice, Koch Brothers may rejoice, but America sheds a tear and is in mourning..

  169. As a fellow Nebraskan and member of the Nebraska legal community, I love your posts and the honesty that they reflect. I may not always agree, but I feel that your blog serves a good purpose and also shows the world that while Nebraska almost always shows up in national news for all the wrong reasons, that isn’t the whole picture – there is more to some of us here and the attention that your blog brings (good or bad, right or wrong) helps to show that to the world. Thank you for all you do!

  170. Judge Kopf, This the first time I have ever “blogged” or commented on a blog, please forgive me if I do not have the process quite right, I will study up on the process later this week.

    I want to say this: Please do not stop your blog. I am a lawyer, I worked me way through school, I had a very frightening experience where I was single, working, studying, exhausted and found myself pregnant. I had to look the choice to stay pregnant or to not stay pregnant. Life took care of me and I miscarried – maybe because I was so scared. No woman gets up on that doctors table in that circumstance lightly or merely for “birth control”, no woman takes a morning after pill without thinking about it, no woman experiences such sadness, such trauma – no matter its outcome – without thought and without lasting impact for the rest of her days. The result in the Hobby Lobby case isn’t protecting the right of the owners religious beliefs – no is forcing them to have an abortion or to use birth control or to use birth control they think creates an abortion. It is not about protcting the unborn and giving them value. The Hobby Lobby case at the end of the day has 5 old [either truly old or old of mind] white guy members of one bureaucratic church protecting the power of the male status quo, the status quo of that church. The Hobby Lobby case tramples on women, it informs us in cement the lack of value the male members of the Supreme Court place on women. And in the last reality, how little value they place on children because in the end it is not men safeguarding the children of this world, it is not men who make attempts to find the children of this world safety, food or love. It is not men who ever look into the abyss a woman may face if she poor [or maybe even if she is not poor], in some god-forsaken place [or maybe just as I am in a rich place in California], already having a bunch of kids and has to choose or even just think about – “if I have this one more the five [or two, or three or four – whatever number] I have now may not eat, may not go to school, may not be healthy, can not get somewhere to safety as easily.” It is not men who value life, who protect the vessel who carries new life or the potential of a new life. it is women and the Hobby Lobby decision tramples on them.

    Please do not stop blogging. I do not know of any lawyer who has not experienced a judge’s decision that was just bananas, and over drinks or coffee with colleagues did not say so in graphic language. That does not mean any lawyer I have ever met went on to throw the system down and cause its failure. We go on, we work to another day. We disagree, we argue, we fight, we win, we loose. We go on, we work to another day. We follow the law – we say if we disagree with it but we follow it. I think the public would be served to see that and I think your blog may do that more than any other illustration I have seen.

    Sara E.

  171. I find that as I work my way through my sixties, I find humor in some people’s fear of language. The patricians are offended by the use of ‘stfu.’ The patricians believe we must use the Queen’s English, and ‘stfu’ is not appropriate in their circles.

    We are in the midst of the end of our tradition of human rights being superior to any rights granted to the artificial creature called the ‘corporation.’ Facing this disaster, we have our elderly maiden aunt getting the vapors over the use of ‘stfu.’ Poor thing, hand her a lace hanky, and understand how serious the decision granting religious rights to a corporation, that over ride all human rights.

    My suggestion to those suffering vapors over ‘stfu,’ is get your priorities straight.

  172. Pingback: 'STFU': Judge Delivers Profanity-Filled Blast at US Supreme Court in a Recent Blog Post

  173. I love the ~idea~ of a sitting judge blogging about controversial cases and questionable courtroom behaviors, it’s immensely interesting to see how the mind of the man behind the curtain operates…

    …but in this day and age with social media ‘evidence’ becoming standard fare in the courtroom, I do wonder if the judge is inadvertently supplying those defendants rightfully convicted in his courtroom with ammunition for appeal.

  174. I am a lawyer with 35+ years under the belt. Like many others, I found this blog after the STFU comment went viral. I find the blog refreshing, thoughtful and witty at times. It is clear that Judge Kopf has deep passion and respect for SCOTUS and recognizes how important it is for the public to trust this institution. Please do not stop blogging. It’s good to know that federal judges can care deeply and still have a sense of humor, and those that do not should STFU.

  175. Pingback: This Judge Told the Supreme Court to ‘STFU’ |

  176. July 8, 2014

    Speaking of Code of Ethics, the ABA’s silence on the lack of ethics under Chief Judge Roberts’ Court has been deafening. I wager less than 1% of the thousands of attorneys in the United States ever practice before the Supreme Court – therefore why haven’t we the people heard a word of disapproval of the blatant conflict of interest practiced by this Supreme Court and never seen before in the Court’s history ?

    Keep on blogging Judge Kopf. Your frank observations are needed and perhaps other Judges will gather the courage to follow in your footsteps. The letter from your Nebraska colleague should have been sent to the five Supreme Court Justices and not to you.

  177. How about the complete lack of respect for the Scotus. I have no respect for this Judge because he does not even know that we are a Republic not a Democracy. No where in the Constitution is the word democracy used. He shows in his comments that he is an activist judge who cares little for the law. I how he some how removed from the bench and the sooner the better.

  178. Given Your position as a lower court Judge, You might want to heed this advice because, if nothing else, Your comments, or at leas their style, suggest the potential for what One might call “judicial anarchy”. I have no problem with You posting the comments on Your blog; justice don’t reference the fact You are a Judge anywhere on the blog due to the potential for Your independence, competency, and impartiality to be called into question.

  179. Note that the judge stayed altogether away from any legal issues in the case. It is quite proper to address the political dimension of the case, to explain why it is imprudent for the SCOTUS to go there. As a judicial officer himself, he is well within the bounds of propriety to point out that judges do well in general not to answer questions when they don’t need to.

  180. This note of appreciation is long overdue. Please keep on doing precisely what you are doing.

  181. It is elitist to assume that public discourse about the judicial system undermines its very foundation.

  182. Please continue your blog, it is vitally important that we the people know how at least one judge in this nation feels about the SCOTUS, after all, most people don’t know what the role of them is, exactly. You tell it like it is, and that is akin to administering CPR to a troubled country. Let’s face it, judges start out as lawyers, and end up as judges, yet your noble profession has the same reputation as a used car salesman, and much less culpability. Do us all a favor, and it’s a big one, but keep calling them out for what they are, partisan hacks, Thank You, Tap

  183. I think you should keep blogging, and I wish some of the Supremes would, too. It’s better that we know what’s on the mind of a person who holds power over others than not. If we’re going to protest the out-of-court commentary of a Federal judge, let’s also talk about jurists who speak only to handpicked audiences and try to keep daylight from shining on what they say. That’s a far greater problem than, my heavens, an f-bomb here or there.

  184. The United States Supreme court is within the law and the guidelines in which they are to follow. It is this judge Kopf that is “out of line”. He is not to be expressing his public opinion. Goes to show his ignorance and stupidity behind his thought process. The U.S. Supreme Court made their decisions that follow the U.S. Constitution. I believe any judge that does not follow the U.S. Constitution MUST be removed from the bench and disbarred from practicing law. EVERY judge is sworn in to uphold the U.S. Constitution, any judge that does not practice this procedure should face severe consequences.

  185. And it was my point that, from a policy perspective, why isn’t it equally noxious that the minority can be categorized in similarly biased terms. I wasn’t addressing the merits of the case, only his political point….which is deeply flawed. The Supreme Court is currently manned only Catholics and Jews. Does that mean that they must refrain from rendering any decision that those of a different faith might find biased?

    Judges need to keep quiet publicly and let their written opinions speak for themselves. To do otherwise is to invite the very problems with respect to his own rulings he seems to be addressing. That’s why we have well-established canons of judicial conduct.

    – Krumhorn

  186. Back in my third year of law school (Warren Burger had recently become the Chief Justice), I was sitting in the library when a group of first-year students were getting a tour. The tour guide–probably a second- or third-year student–said, “When you want to find out what the law is now, this is where you go.” I felt like interrupting and telling them, “And when you get to your third year, you learn that no one knows what the hell the law is now.”

    As Justice Jackson said about the Supreme Court, “We are not final because we are infallible; we are infallible, because we are final.” A majority of the Supreme Court declares what it thinks the Constitution and laws mean, and that is the final decision–unless or until it is overruled. Some famous decisions that must have seemed obvious to their authors have been overruled–Dred Scott by the Civil War, and Plessy v. Ferguson (which approved of segregation) by Brown v. Board of Education. The court’s decisions must be followed, but no one has to agree with the reasoning behind them.

  187. When good men go quiet – evil wins.

    SCOTUS is obviously not evil.. but the decision is so fundamentally wrong, they should be called out. Handing corporations a ‘personal’ right will lead to so many more problems with corporations trying to find loopholes to enhance their bottom line at the expense of others – the mind boggles.

    If no one speaks up, who will?

  188. I find your open disdain for the Supremes and some of their actions a small ray of light in an ever darkening world where justice is seen as non-exsistent for those who require it and depend upon it the most and non-applicable to those with the resources to do as they please: 99% v. 1% respectively.

    I’m undecided as to comments using stfu to express your feelings although I’ve said as much and worse over the years after reading through several decisions handed down by the high court at different times.

    This particular Court has left a great many of us who are of the 99% with a total loss of faith in our court systems as a whole because it is apparent that no bad decision shall go unrewarded by the Supremes and in total disregard for the precedents that past Courts have set through determined and well thought out decisions that individuals and the lower Courts could depend on in the past.

    I guess if I had one concern about those who disagree with what you say and do it would be to ask them where they were when our politicians basically abolished the constitutional protections of the citizens of this country by signing legislation into law that clearly violated the edicts of our constitution.
    And where were they when a large part of the judiciary radified the treason of the legislative branch by enforcing the unconstitutional changes to our personal freedoms in life, liberty and property, not to mention the pursuit of hapiness.

    If only one man stands against what he perceives is a great wrong there is still hope that others will rise to their feet in support but if no one stands it will take less than a generation before the argument is forgotten altogether and the wrong becomes the norm. God help us on that day.

    You do what you decide is right and the rest of us will decide for ourselves how we feel about it and that’s the way it use to work America…………………

  189. The person who told you to stop may be a friend and someone you trust, but his letter proves one thing, they are not seeing the same thing as the rest of us are, and they are not trustworthy. His feelings seem to be along the same lines as the 5 who vote wrong on a continuous basis disregarding the Constitution in their decisions, again putting lawyers and judges above others in life.

    PLEASE DO NOT listen to him, we need you speaking out for Americans! We have far more trust in you and your blogging than we do in the 5 sitting on the SCOTUS bench.

  190. People have wandered far afield, into the merits of the decision, where RGK did not go. It’s like when a school district lawyer moves to get one of my complaints dismissed by arguing the merits. I need to remember not to get led astray into that. Its only about jurisdiction; the merits are for hearing.

    All at issue here is what was said, that among other things it looked bad for the decision to rest entirely on the 5 members of the RC Church, which opposes contraception. How can anyone dispute that?

    Was it correctly decided anyway? RGK did not go there. He just gave some reasons why it was a bad idea not to avoid the case. You don’t agree wit his arguments? Then refute them. You can hold all that nonsense about how he violated the Rules of Professional Conduct, whatever, at least until you trouble yourselves to cite the violation to the appropriate Rule.

  191. Your honor, in light of the letter from the attorney from Nebraska, might I say that you should never STFU. While yes, you are a judge, you’re first and foremost an American citizen whose rights are protected, regardless of your chosen vocation.

    Speak up!

    Let your voice be heard!

    Also, has this attorney thought for even a second about who is despised more, judges or lawyers? There’s a strong reason why people disapprove of Congress and lawyers. Might it have something to do with one being full of the other?

  192. Pingback: For Whose Hobby Do We Lobby? | RHDefense: The Law Office of Rick Horowitz

  193. Dear Judge,

    I write in response to your post regarding the Hobby Lobby SCOTUS decision. I’ve practiced law for 35+ years. I’m a middle-of-the-road Republican in political leaning. I say: Keep it up! Don’t be intimidated by the intonation of “rules of judicial conduct.” Nothing in the U.S. Constitution says you must muzzle your informed reaction to decisions of the courts of this land, no matter how faulty. It does our Republic good to hear from individuals like you, who are educated in the law and serve on the front lines of the administration of justice. As for your use of rough language on your blog post, it’s nothing I don’t hear — or say — almost every day in response to stupid, unfounded court decisions. The public needs to hear more from members of the bench about their reactions to such decisions. It contributes invaluably to healthy debate.

  194. Don’t get your boxers in a knot judge. Go commando!

    “They” might figure out a way to remove you from the bench yet and floating rumors of you going commando under the robe might be up their sleeve of dirty tricks so scratch that advice.

    BUT please do spare us from the physicians healing gods and ethical quandaries.

    Doing “no harm” is a myth even “us public” ones sitting in the cheap seats know that.

    Heck, just take the vitals of that legal “system” you have been a part of for all these years and tell me she doesn’t need a swift kick in the ass?

    I am sure you have some nice friends and peers and all Judge, but some of them sure are a little bit, shall I say, squeamish and more than just a wee but sanctimonious about discussing the actual condition of the patient. I do give them credit for talking about your mental illness while you are in the room though.

    So, please do take great painstaking pause as you carefully examine the logic and merit of the advice you receive from your trusted and admired peers and friends. You would be a fool not too.

    Are you coward or fool? Can you improve the condition of the patient, even if you have to use chemotherapy? Does the patient have the stones to survive the medicine? These are just a few of the questions.

    Don’t forget that everybody, and I mean everybody sitting in the cheap seats knows “The Chemotherapy” (for an apt analogy) does plenty of harm to the “system”.

    We also know that it is, in fact, just the “poison” needed to get the job done and save the patient now and then especially when their are no other readily available tools available as the band of socialital research and development plays on.

    So what are you going to do judge? Keep the poison chemo flowing through the veins of your blawg or abort the poor bastard for expedience and appearances?

    I don’t know about you but I think I would have been more comfortable receiving this letter, you received, from a trusted peer if they just came right out and questioned my sanity and pondered if cancer had knocked a few screws loose. But no…the author of the letter you posted insists his or her intentions are pure and larger than life itself and opens with:

    ~~~I am deeply troubled when the judicial system you and I love, which I think is essential to our society, is harmed.~~~

    Then pretty much tells you to stfu:

    ~~~”I think blogging by judges harms our system significantly. I thought that you had decided some time ago to stop posting to Hercules and the Umpire. It is my sincere belief that you should.”~~~

    I don’t know about you judge but when he or she warned of the dangers when “us public”, sitting in the cheap seats, get wind of your musings and then lobed out “public trust” while scolding you for the use of profanity I almost got a shiver up my spine… But it didn’t last too long when they followed up with:

    ~~~”How does such attention and reaction create an appearance that assists the public’s acceptance of the law, help people trust judges, foster faith in our system, and advance the cause of the delivery of justice? … – and seems incapable of exercising sufficient discernment to know when things should be left unsaid — how do we legitimately expect the public to trust a judge to make the critical decisions he or she is daily called upon to address?”~~~

    Yup, you are the Judge and YOU just may be fucking crazy judge. How cool is that?

    Are you crazy Judge?

    Shine on and shrug it off. All things considered, you haven’t even really gotten started yet with your “Blawging” efforts yet anyway. And don’t forget an abortion is the easy way out.

    Beside, I do not think your whimsical ramblings and reflections thus far are what really scares some of your respected peers and friends.

    I think what scares them is the figurative child inside you who one day might just slip up and expose the “game”. They, as do we all, have a lot invested in the game judge.

    So scurry along now and read some get well cards or something. Or Heavens forbid…IT will all be on you when the “purposes” of the judicial system come crashing down because some crazy old federal judge, LIKE YOU, didn’t know the proper forum to be whispering about insanities unspoken.

    I don’t know you and I don’t want to know you. I don’t even particularly enjoy most of your posts but I do like you style Judge.

    So after you get done attempting to reconcile and tally up all the china you have been scattering about while breaking the sensibilities of the some of your peers…

    I dare you in, fact I double dog dare you to put the “public’s unscientific system of extrapolation…” to the test.

    I don’t think the “public” is nearly as fragile as some of your trusted friends and peers my extrapolate.

    No doubt about it you have been SHUSHED judge and I am sure the shushing will continue.

    Now ignore all this nonsense and carry on. Time is a wasting. I don’t think you have stirred them up enough yet for them to start calling you a loon before you are SHUNED.

  195. No federal judges have done more wrong to the Public’s respect for the law than a handful of the Justices at the SCOTUS.

    Please continue your writing which is a welcome change when the voices on the other side are exceedingly loud, unclear, and murky.

  196. Our entire firm reads this blog. We are in the trenches of the justice system on a daily basis and find this blog to be one of the most honest, well-written commentaries around. People need to know more, not less, about the workings of the judiciary. Thank you for your honesty, insight and willingness to let the light in!

  197. Judge Kopf:

    Please don’t stop blogging. The transparency you’re providing about your professional life significantly increases my confidence in and respect for the law and our courts.

    Knowing that beneath the robe is not just a well versed jurist but also a thoughtful and reflective person who really thinks about rulings, who really cares about getting it right — and who spends real effort trying to figure out what ‘right’ means — is all to the good.

    When I read your post about how you’ll sometimes take your glasses off when sentencing a defendant I was impressed at how you acknowledged the emotional impact of your decisions, even when your duty required you to ignore or at least limit the weight afforded those emotions.

    When I read your post about why you’ll usually give a cop the benefit of the doubt I vehemently disagreed with you. You give too much weight to the wrong factors, and your attitude encourages the epidimic levels of testi-lying by law enforcment. But I understand your attitude, why you lean that way, and how you came to believe that. I respect that (wrong) position, and I admire your willingness to look inside your own thought processes and try and understand why you reach the conclusions you do.

    The knowledge that you do think this much about these kind of things greatly increases my respect for the bench. The thing is, we in the public already know that judges are people. If we know that they’re people of wisdom and integrity we’ll respect them even if they make a ruling we don’t like.

  198. Judge,
    Although I am in no way involved in the legal profession, I have greatly enjoyed your stimulating thoughts. This is the third time I have wanted to make this comment, each of the previous two I have been too lazy to complete my thoughts. First after you made a comment about sometimes thinking the myth was better than the truth, I believe in response to another comment regarding the post including a video of judge and PD fighting. Second when your recently solicited such thoughts in response to an interview with Judge Posner. This time with the specter of once again losing such a rich public asset I resolved to truly offer my opinion and encouragement to continue.
    However, in the meantime most of what I wanted to say has been repeated many times over by others.

    This blog has done more than anything else to humanize the courts, and instill a sense that those with such responsibly truly carry the gravity of their decisions and make them with thoughtfulness and integrity.

    The truth is always better than the myth. This is particularly true when the myth cannot stand scrutiny.

    Your correspondent’s argument that the public cannot handle the truth that, and that we are all going to wear out our fainting couches because an Article III Judge uttered profanity on the internet is a bit insulting and frankly juvenile.

    Anyway I have rambled on far too long about what I originally wanted to say. After browsing through many comments that have made my original thoughts mostly moot. I have developed a new fear. This point, I think, still needs to be addressed. I speak of those who have flocked here to praise you for sharing their outrage at the wrongness of SCOTUS, or to praise you for sharing their elation at the rightness of SCOTUS, or to chastise you for not sharing their elation at the rightness of SCOTUS, or to chastise for not sharing their outrage at the wrongness of SCOTUS. You need to know: It is not your fault.

    You have likely been surprised to learn that you have done all of these things. This is the internet. It will never matter that you offered no opinion on the merits of the decision. Those who seek confirmation of their biases will find it. If they do not find it here they will find it somewhere; indeed it wasn’t here yet they found it. You are not making people dumber because they refuse to read. There are plenty of places people can go to assert that any decision with which they disagree is evidence of judicial corruption. Plenty of places where their assertions will be met with friendly nods. At least if they do it here you are there to correct them. Perhaps once in a very long while someone will stick around long enough to learn something.

    My point is you will always have people seeking to confirm their conspiracy theories, and they will find their confirmation. If It comes from a Federal Judge (whether he actually said it or not) all the better, but these are the people who are beyond hope; their mind has been made up long before they clicked a link that read “old man has potty mouth”. Do what you do for those who think; for them your blog does a tremendous amount of good. For those who do not…

  199. Pingback: Denton Texas Radio – Where Denton Comes To Listen! – This Judge Told the Supreme Court to ‘STFU’

  200. Judge! Very cool. I never knew you said stfu to some folks or confessed to catching a glance down female lawyers’ blouses. I did not read the entire letter by the Nebraska lawyer, but have some familiarity with those sort of sentiments. No, I believe folks in authority profit immeasurably by being human. No, I see little risk to the perception of justice, etc. I vote you keep blogging. Frankness is always valued – by most folks. Humanity is always valued, even by those who refuse to admit it, IMO.

  201. How is it NOT that simple?

    One of the most fundamental canons of statutory construction is that if the words of a statute are plain and unambiguous, then those words should be given full effect.

    The Dictionary Act says that, unless the context requires otherwise, the word “person” includes a corporation. The term “context” there refers to the actual text of the statute. The Supreme Court held in Rowland that the Court cannot look past the text and take into account the legislative history, case law, etc.

    Under that approach, it is impossible to reach any other conclusion. The term “person” in RFRA refers to a corporation. Justice Ginsburg’s reasoning on that point is nonsensical. I suspect that’s why Breyer and Kagan did not join that part of the dissent.

    Indeed, as Chief Justice Roberts hinted at oral argument, the Dictionary Act has already been interpreted to say that corporations have a race – i.e. a corporation can be “white” or “Native American” as in Wilson v. Omaha Indian Tribe.

    Plus, the Court plainly recognizes the reality that churches, synagogues and mosques all have religions, even when existing in corporate form. And, General Verrilli was given two chances to provide any authority for treating non-profits differently than for-profits. He could not.

    Simply put, there is no legal authority at all to support Ginsburg’s assertion.

    The analysis under RFRA is equally simple. The statute requires that the government pursue its interests in a way that places the least restriction on religious practice.

    And, once again, Ginsburg gets hung up violating the rules of construction, ignoring the plain text of the statute and trying to inject legislative history to interpret an unambiguous text. And, that’s just not how it works. The statute is plain on its face and does not need an assist from the legislative history.

    Not only that, but Ginsburg misapplies the religious cases anyway. She says that religious accommodations cannot burden third parties. However, she is ignoring HER OWN OPINION in Cutter v. Wilkinson, where she wrote that the third-party burden issue was not fatal to an accommodation, but that it instead triggered a potential “as applied” challenge to the accommodation. In other words, the question would become whether the accommodation – as applied – resulted in an impermissible establishment of religion. There is no case that flatly says that accommodations can’t create a burden on third parties. Ginsburg’s cases don’t mean what she says they mean.

    Lastly, Ginsburg’s third-party burden argument is circular and nonsensical. And, it would invalidate almost every religious accommodation. Consider, for example, Yoder. Using Ginsburg’s formulation, Yoder was wrong because accommodating the Amish would mean that children no longer had the benefit of state-mandated education. Nearly every time you consider the “benefit” of the challenged statute, you will end up with a third-party burden.

  202. Sir:

    I’m afraid your respected friend and e-mail writer, however accomplished and influential – or not – appears to suffer the malady of the powerful. He appears to live within the confines of an illusion – that public trust in the system is still intact. It is not, nor should it be. Nor will it be resurrected with silence, assuming it is salvageable at all. While I hope that it is salvageable, I have to confess I have my doubts.

    What do the words “our country” mean? When so-called protective agencies spy on its citizens, when whistleblowers are harassed and punished rather than protected, when journalism is attacked (or turned into ‘arguetainment’), when members of Congress do nothing save bow and scrape to their Corporate Lords, when the Supreme Court reveals itself to be partisan and not merely untrustworthy but also unworthy, when the people in leadership appear to be dancing like marionettes to the tune of invisible puppeteers, when the people who are supposed to have a voice are rendered voiceless, what do we have, really, except illusion and corruption? The appearance, the ghost-shadow of a seeming country?

    How very convenient it would be for those with most to gain for you to silence yourself. No challenge to the status quo from your corner of the world. No dissent. No truth-telling. Ahhh …. The peace, the inestimable tranquility, of silence. The Power Bubble lives, immune to anything uncomfortable, anything remotely resembling the truth. Let the people shout and scream. Let them bang against the walls. Let them bloody their heads, or let them eat cake.

    I am not an attorney, but I am a professional, and I see growing skepticism and distrust of my own field both within the public and among members of my profession. I also see the professional naysayers who would like to carry on as if we are still living in 1950. It is those who voice their distrust, who call a thing what it is, and who refuse to worship sacred cows that I depend upon for grounding and solidarity. They are the ones with whom I walk into the future, for however long I do or may, because I can count on them to tell me the truth. Even when I don’t like the truth.

    We have far too few among your rank who acknowledge the truth. Your language …. your very worthy STFU …. may have come from your thoughts and your feelings, but it reflects US, those of us who see our betrayal by SCOTUS. It says that not everything is in vain, perhaps, that there is still possibly a small percentage of those within the system who are willing to tell the truth. And whether or not you want it to be true, it says that someone out there sees us, that someone esteems us enough to see us. Or better yet, in spite of rank, to be one of us, even while you are separate from us.

    I wonder, and it is a question meant without sarcasm, who you believe yourself here to serve, if you see yourself as being here to serve? Is it the legal profession? Or is it the people?

    People can’t handle STFU? Really? That is mild. Mild, mild, mild. It pales compared to the fury, disappointment, and yes, even despair that I have witnessed among my peers over this horrific decision. People think that the young are going to be offended by this? The young are already offended … by the refusal to acknowledge corruption. Your STFU is validating.

    To paraphrase someone you know well, the only thing bigger than my ass (or my post) is my outrage. I am not alone in this.

    Clearly, I hope you will not stop blogging. Every voice is needed, and yours rings strong and clear. You also have the ability as well as the will to acknowledge when you feel you are in error, and that is invaluable.

    Trust is already a bust; what we are talking about when we talk about silence is image and denial, now. And it is so much more than the image of the legal system that is at stake. It is … everything. Yeah, no pressure.

    BTW, did you happen to see the recent article in Politico by Nick Hanauer? The only thing he got wrong, I fear, was the implement he talked about … pitchforks.

    Like he’d been watching too many movies from the 1950s.

    May your esteemed e-mail writer take an enlightening trip into the 21st century. Soon.

  203. Sometimes I wish the federal judiciary were run more like the NBA — large fines for coarse or uncouth discourse, bullying or demeaning behavior (especially of attorneys), and calling other branches of the government names. I suspect judges would quickly find a way to express the points of view with remarkable civility. On a more serious note, one of my grandfathers was a desegregationist involved in high profile litigation that wound its way up to SCOTUS. Emotions ran high throughout the case and bomb threats against him and his family were common. I am grateful that the judge did not further inflame emotions with aggressive rhetoric …. if he had, there’s a chance yours truly might not be here. That said, I think every situation is unique and most comments aren’t likely to incite violence.

  204. I agree with the letter writer. I’ve practiced law for 23 years, second gen. Lawyer, and while there is much to lament in our judiciary and the profession, a Federal Judge has a duty that exceeds that of a layperson.

    Intemperate comments from a sitting judge offend the notion of impartial justice, an open mind, and common courtesy and respect. Even as a lawyer, when speaking with laypersons, I am careful not to malign the Supreme Court or other courts, including this blogger’s. Telling the highest court in the land, as a sitting federal judge, to “STFU”, bespeaks a confusion about propriety as well as to the role of the court, yours and the one you malign, in our federal system.

    I suggest an honest appraisal of what being a judge is about and putting some distance between yourrself and the “maading crowd.”. It will probably be better for your health and happiness as well. If you are hell bent on pursuing this, it’s time to step down from the bench. You might also stick more to legal analysis than ad hominem. See Volkh Conspiracy blog for a good example of law blogging done well.

  205. Pingback: Judge Richard Kopf and our unfiltered world. | The Irreverent Lawyer

  206. She’s right, you know. This tribal warfare stuff is part of the reason STFU is accepted, possibly by over 1/2 of the commenters here, as just another accepted form of expression at the highest level of public discourse, in the judiciary now, appatently.

    Words chosen more carefully would have made the point without cheapening it. We’ve really seen a coarsening of culture and bringing disrepute to higher office in this way, i.e. Presidential semen stains on interns, now STFU and leering at the ladies. I don’t know that most of us realize how far we’ve fallen, like boiling the frog.

  207. Yes, yes. People cannot read the justices’ opinions to learn whether they addressed the merits, or instead voted their religious preferences, could they? (They did the former, not the latter.) The only purpose for bringing it up is to stoke the opinion that they voted their religious presences among people who won’t read for themselves—and he either knows they didn’t and accused them falsely, or he disgustingly resorted to a religious smear without reading. He resorted to a smear in either case.

    It’s only “a relevant concern” if your intent is to create false impressions among those you know won’t, and you hope to discourage from, reading the opinions themselves, in order to propagate the false impression.

  208. After a series of RGK “un-connected gaffes”, …Steve hits paydirt:

    After the sentence was set, Kopf said he doesn’t like to lecture people at sentences, but then he said the doctors involved were beyond belief.
    “There is an entitlement mentality in the medical profession that is just astounding,” Kopf said.
    “I understand that doctors are trained not to doubt themselves because when they give critical care they can’t doubt themselves; they have to act. But that breeds a sort of egotism that is really hard to take,” he said.
    “The medical schools would be good to teach…that what they (students ) are taught to do as physicians may not be how they can live their lives outside the doctor’s suite or the surgical suite; that there are differences,” Kopf said.
    “And, if the government has done nothing else in this case, it’s made that point abundantly clear to a bunch of doctors who were piggish beyond belief,” he said.

    * * *”
    Pot, Kettles, and Black….Hmmm. Substitute “Judge, Courts, and Law Schools”…for Doctors, Medical schools, and surgery.

    Narcissists know no limits. Injury often occurs in childhood. Engages in attention seeking behaviors. Exhibits entitlements. Social and Legal boundaries are often ignored. Serially.

    Suggestion: Retire and deal with your cancer. Quietly. Man up…and STFU.
    Or continue with your little charade as “Klinger,” to get out of your commitment to the Federal Government.
    Either way, your Judicial colleagues will appreciate your absence.

    Anyone notice the Irony– that the Narcissistic Kopf is being treated by the “Narcissistic MD’s”. Too, Rich. (oops, another irony)

    A final suggestion to the self-venerated one…..

    Das kannst du mir nicht weismachen, Schwachkopf .

    ( go tell it to the marines, dumbass )

    John A Wagoner Sr.

  209. Agree with Krumhorn. Only those on “the right” make devisions based on crass politics versus, sniff, “the law,” that is somehow only evident to the loud dissenters. See Sotomayor’s dissent to injunction in the follow on case the day after Hobby Lobby was decided.

    If we want to be tribal, we can always ascribe the worst intentions to the other side, and just skip the icky legal analysis stuff.

    Because, “corporations.”. Better: Multinational Corporations! Ooh scarey stuff. And Catholics–eek!

  210. I am not a lawyer, but have made a serious hobby of studying the actions, activities and communications of our founding fathers. While none of them could have contemplated the world as it exists today, I do know that many of them, particularly Mr. Jefferson, Mr. Adams, Mr. Madison, Mr. Hamilton and particularly Mr. Jay believed that history requires the open discussion of ideas in order to, through discourse, particularly with those who believe differently, further the understanding of our great democracy. I do not believe that open, honest debate, no matter what ones bias or strength of conviction can ever do more damage to these United States than silence.

  211. Please don’t take his advice seriously. I’m a newcommer, finding out about it from Scott at SimpleJustice and now I”m hooked. There’s no way you’re harming the system, there’s no way it’s a draw, you’re a big benefit.

  212. Please, oh please, keep the blog going. I’ve just discovered you and more than any other blogger, you have engaged my thoughts and forced them to contemplate the unthinkable. I’m just someone’s grandmother, but in an effort to keep the brain cells sparking, I want to follow you for a good long time.

    So here’s where your STFU post led me. Hobby Lobby was not about abortion because Roe v Wade is no more. It has been so limited, despite what Justice O’Connor tried to do, that the battle is really over contraception and thus we are back to pre-Griswold days. The freedom that women gained to engage in the economy was too threatening to those five old men so they shut it down. Who will benefit? Well as with all things political, IMO, it all comes down to the personal. Those five old men have sons who they dream will go on to do great things, but they won’t if there are women out there, smarter women, raised by feminists from the 1960s and 70s. So the grumpy five, in an effort to protect their personal tribe, are ready to revisit, not Roe v Wade, but Griswold. Heaven help us.

  213. Judge Kopf:

    Please continue blogging.

    You are an eloquent and forceful advocate for the law, the judiciary, and, most importantly, a beleaguered legal profession. The day to day grind of the practice at times causes one to forget that the law can be a noble profession. When I read your posts, I am reminded of all the good reasons that prompted me to study law in the first place, and to become a practicing attorney over 30 years ago.

    What I most enjoy about your blog is the humanness and candor you display. That this comes from Judge, with many years of experience in the law, is all the more meaningful.

    Please keep up the good work.

  214. I was alerted to this post from “Susan Strong” by a friend of mine who regularly checks this blog. As a current state court judge (without lifetime tenure) I should not and do not participate in blogging. I do not know whether someone is using my name surreptitiously or whether there is actually another Susan Strong who posted this comment.

    In any event, I would llike to make it clear that it was not I who posted this comment. I do not believe Judge Kopf should retire. I have nothing but the utmost respect and admiration for Judge Kopf and consider him a friend and distinguished colleague.

  215. Pingback: Federal Judge tells SCOTUS to "stfu," & is Asked "Please Stop" - Taylor Marsh

  216. Dear Judge;

    Many people are correct, Your postings “MAY” to some, appear as you being non-impartial to a particular subject matter that may or may not ever come before the court.

    I however, applaud your for, and implore you to continue along with your posts. I see it as you giving us the lesser educated in the law, the much needed insight onto and into the SPIRIT of the LAW. To those of us who at least not work within the judicial system, yet love to follow the law. Your posts are enlightening. Very Enlightening to say the least.

    HOWEVER, and I do mean HOWEVER, for you to kowtow to a colleague whom you respect, well, it only tells me that he disrespects you more than you know. I can understand why your were appointed to your position. It is simply because you know how to interpret those laws before us and, you know how to be fair and impartial about it.

    You are entirely within your rights as a citizen of these United States. I would suggest that the gentleman who wrote the original reply article, deeply invest some time, to at least examine and hold their own personal court ( with judge and jury) upon their true integrity and I say shame on him, as an officer of the court no less, even consider at attempting to use his personal influence upon you, to thwart and stifle your having a colleague who is a Federal Judge, to
    After all. I do believe that, the First Amendment of our Great United States is indeed … Meant for all.

    Your honor, thank you for all you do, in having to make decisions based upon rules, that for so many, were written and adopted by the few. Given the nature of our system of government. I too also have that right to free speech. And I for one, will never give that up or any of the other amendments in the Constitution, that have been placed before us. And I will not give them up for anyone.

    Keep posting your honor. Your 1st Amendment rights are at stake. And if they can get you to keep quiet then who else?

  217. Pingback: Keep Talkin’ Judge

  218. While I agree that the SC needs to have its fences drawn in, this issue is primarily a 1st amendment issue, and needed to be addressed.
    How is it that legislation, (which was deemed to be a tax, thereby rendering it unconstitutional by virtue of the fact that, if it IS a tax, it originated in the wrong house of Congress) can trump a citizen’s (and the owners of this company ARE citizens) right to practice their religious beliefs, which should include their ability to refrain from committing acts which would violate said beliefs?

    This is made more egregious by the fact that of the 20 drugs required by the ACA, they objected to only 4, those which would likely result in an abortion.

    Though not a case taken up by the SC, the case of the bakery in Oregon (?) is the same situation. How do someone’s “civil rights” trump those enshrined in the Bill of Rights?

  219. Dear Judge Kopf,

    Please continue.

    Your critic laments the damage you are doing to “public trust in Judges”. This is ludicrous — the damage to public trust is being inflicted by the SCOTUS Justices themselves — who write such drivel as the majority’s opinion in Citizens United.

    Your speaking of truth to power from a seat of legitimacy is invaluable. Without the scorn and derision they so richly deserve, SCOTUS Justices, appointed for life, have no reason to reflect on the stupidity of their decisions and writings. It is only the voices of scorn, by experts such as yourself, coming from WITHIN their ranks, that can provide any form of ‘check’ on their power.

    Should you be less crass? Certainly not, if it means your voice will less heard. In this day and age, it is simply an unavoidable truth that “gentle”, “civilized” discourse doesn’t get heard. “The Emperor has no clothes” will not be heard as well as “Look at that naked a$$hole with the crown!”. Frank Zappa was a musical genius, but he would have remained virtually unknown were it not for his crass lyrics.

    Please continue, just as you are.

  220. I read your post and got seriously bummed out until I noticed the date of the Update. I’m glad I followed your link but having an Updated Update with “He’s Back” might save a few people from undo disappointment.

  221. One of the facets of this discussion that has fascinated me is that Hobby Lobby and its supporters have decided that they can make the claim that certain drugs cause abortions, even when physicians and scientists contradict them. None of the drugs mentioned ’cause’ an abortion.

    Their claim that these drugs cause an abortion is as valid as my claim that entering a Walmart store causes an abortion. Pure nonsense.

    How is an insurance policy a vehicle for taking away someone’s “right to practice religious beliefs”?
    If you are Jewish or Moslem, do you lose your “right to practice religious beliefs” when you walk into Waffle House or Denny’s and see me eating bacon?
    As a female, would your religious rights be threatened if I received a prescription for Viagra?
    If you are a Quaker, your “right to practice religious beliefs” is offended by your tax dollars going to support war and Capital Punishment. .. but the Courts have told the Quakers that they don’t have a say in the matter.

    Your argument is false.

  222. Pingback: Ethics Dunce: Federal Judge Richard G. Kopf | Ethics Alarms

  223. Thanks for one of the few sensible replies in this combox. A lot of sound and fury over SCOTUS deciding Hobby Lobby doesn’t have to buy its employees rubbers and birth control pills – nary a mention of an all-encompassing domestic surveillance by the security apparatus, collapsing economy, a government that lies incessantly every time it addresses the public, the use of the IRS as a weapon to suppress political opposition… I could go on and on. What an unserious and frivolous bunch of people!

    Look you lawyers, before you start invoking the People, realize that We The People hold your profession in the lowest esteem of all professions in this country, and that means of course WE hold YOU in contempt. Don’t just assume it’s only five old Catholics on the SCOTUS who have sullied your reputation. Since the political leadership of this country is dominated by your kind, it is no wonder to us that we are rapidly circling the toilet. The next time, Judge, you feel the urge to rail against religious people and post “shut the fuck up” on your blog or you, disgruntled shysters, want to post me too comments on a blog like this, take a long look in the mirror at yourselves, meditate on how you have failed us — and please stop.

  224. It is always fun reading someone ranting about other people ranting, then calling someone an ‘arrogant jerk.’
    I’d guess that was near the top of the list of ways to be considered a studious and thoughtful critic. Not all that far from lying on the floor, kicking and screaming…

  225. “To my critics, I say: ‘vaffanculo’. [Italian for ‘Fuck You’]”

    – Justice Antonin Scalia

    See, it was your use of an acronym that makes it obscene, and the fact that you wrote it on a blog. A federal judge should have the self-respect and dignity to fully verbalize his obscenities in a public forum, just like this standard-setting conservative idol.

  226. Dude, really?? 2 of those 4 methods are variants of the “morning after pill ”, specifically designed to prevent any pregnancy from surviving.
    There is a world of difference between a taxpayer contributing to a vast pool, and an employer buying an insurance policy for their employees, and opting out of funding certain things.

  227. Perhaps the commenters in this string did not discuss the issues that you raise is that Judge Kopf’s post was not about that–would you inject your comments into a discussion about the pennant races?

    As for the public’s low opinion of lawyers–stoked in part by those with an interest in having us trial lawyers looked upon with suspicion–I often tell clients that we’re like gunslingers in the old western movie. Everybody hates us. Until they need us. Then we become the white knights.

  228. That letter’s a pretty goddamn wordy way of telling you to stfu.

    This blog does immeasurable good. If you think some of the things you say are doing harm, I hope you will change (or consider changing) the things you say, rather than stop saying anything at all. This is a textbook case of not throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

  229. … I just read a sampling of the comments on the infamous ‘stfu’ post. I could write a template:

    “How could you be so arrogant as to think that anybody wants to hear your uninformed profanity-laced opinion, which is uncivil and disrespectful of authority [and which you posted here on your own private blog, to which I clicked of my own free will]? Now, in a concise 1,500 words, here is MY uninformed profanity-laced opinion, which is uncivil and disrespectful of authority:
    [blah blah blah]”

    Illegitimi non carborundum, Judge.

  230. RGK,

    Your blog is frank and refreshing. It’s helped me through some of the more stressful parts of the last few years. I believe you’ve had a positive impact on the legal community locally, even nationally, myself included. I don’t think there’s anything to gain by keeping discussion of these divisive and contested issues in the shadows. And I’m not convinced you’ll be bringing indignity or disenchantment to the courts just by speaking your mind. If anything, your blog brings a more thoughtful insight to present-day issues and the federal judiciary.

    And SCOTUS could use a little criticism, now and then.

    Thanks for all you’ve done.

  231. FWIW, I agree with the letter writer. Whatever damage is done to the respect the public holds for the judiciary when SCOTUS accepts cases that, in prudence, shouldn’t be accepted or, in law, should be decided differently, there can be little doubt that a sitting federal judge telling the public that his superior court should STFU does far more damage. The rule of law–and the peace, stability, and opportunity it brings to the people of this country–exists not by fear or force but by respect for the institutions of government. You obviously disagree with the decision but, rather than rely solely on dispassionate legal anaylsis, you bolster you position by noting that four Catholics rendered the decision, a pejorative observation as surely as irrelevant as the fact that the Jews on the court unanimously opposed the decision. And then there’s the vulgarity. I am not on Facebook because I recognize a real risk that I could not control myself and would post material suitable for discussion with a close friend over a beer but not for public consumption, particularly given my career and job. I think the blog or the career should end for the same reason. Best of luck in the future.

  232. GFC — the good judge and a great many of us are religious.
    The pseudo -religious are the ones who we rail against.
    The Green family is heavily invested in the corporations that make contraceptives, including the ‘morning after’ pill. They are heavily invested in the corporation that makes the RD whatever, the only abortion pill accepted by the FDA.
    The Greens are very religious when it comes to controlling women employees, but when it comes to making money, their religious beliefs are tossed aside.
    GFC – before you play the poor, pitiful, oh-so self-righteous victim, get your facts straight.
    You, Alito, and Scalia play the same charade – the victim, when you are the abuser. You whine and cry about hurting your hand beating someone, expecting the sympathy for your sore hand and not for the innocent person you’ve beaten.
    ‘We the People’ thank the good Lord that we have a legal profession protecting us from the abuses of political judges.
    Yes, five old male chauvinists, racists, on the Supreme Court do not live up to their own religious standards of ethical conduct. They demonstrated in their Voting Rights Act that they long for the old days of Jim Crow laws and literacy tests. The demonstrated in Hobby Lobby that some pseudo-Christian group can flip their religion on and off, just like a light switch. On when they can use it to shove certain beliefs down the throats of others and to achieve certain political goals, but off when it comes to investment profits.
    GFC – suppose you look in the mirror, read your own words, and stop pretending that you are protecting religious beliefs, admit you are simply pushing your political agenda.
    For those of us who try and fail at living a Christian life, self-righteous pseudo-Christians are disgusting.

  233. There is a real irony here. The judge is being accused of creating an appearance of impropriety on his part for pointing out an appearance of impropriety on the part of our USSCt. His point was simple: there are some issues on which any Supreme Court action will do more harm than good, Hobby Lobby decided one of those issues and the fallout may be harmful to our nation.

    Personally, I find Judge Kopf’s blog refreshing and well written. I may not agree with him on all issues, but he makes points that are honestly and clearly expressed. I hope he continues.

  234. Pingback: STFU? Does Judicial Blogging Harm The Legal System? | thelegalreformer

  235. Dear Judge Kopf,

    Thank you for your Hobby Lobby and Please stop posts. The posts and the discussion they spark shine a much-needed light on the public’s thirst to understand the judicial system.

    We at LPR hope you continue blogging. Your blog offers the public an invaluable glimpse into the judiciary – and transparency is a good thing.


    Elisa Eisenberg
    Center for Legal Practice Reform

  236. Dude – really…

    You might do a wee bit of research in how the pregnancy process works. Your phrase “prevent any pregnancy from surviving” indicates that you, as had I, did not understand the process.

    About ten years back, I mouthed off at a friend about abortion. His wife, an Obgyn nurse, sat me down and gave me the adult version of the birds and bees lecture. From the egg being fertilized (up to 24-36 hours) until it can affix to the uterus wall can be 3-4 days or longer. That affixing is called implantation, that is when the clock starts.

    The March of Dimes research projects that 50% of pregnancies end in miscarriage.

    Dude, an employer deciding what he deems is medically permissible according to his whims, prejudice, bigotry, misguided belief — all the while hiding behind the cloak of religious belief. It makes as much sense as my religious belief that entering a Walmart causes a miscarriage……….

    No, there is not a ‘world of difference’ between a Quaker’s tax money going to war and an employer paying for an insurance policy. For ideologues, there may be a world of difference between what they support and what they don’t. For the Quaker, being forced to financially support war is far more evil than a woman getting contraceptives.

  237. When we consider the disrespect that the Republican Party has shown our President, when we consider the attempt at delegitimizing this President by the TeaBagger wing of the Republican Party, this facet of the discussion is a joke. United States Senators, Congress critters, Governors have told lies about where our President was born, his religion, etc. their hope and goal was to convince citizens that he was not the legitimate President.

    Now, if this blog was claiming that Scalia wasn’t legitimate because of his close, public links to the Federalists, the Kock Brothers, Corporate subsidizers, etc, then the conversation could be based on fact.

    Now, if this blog was claiming that Thomas wasn’t legitimate because of his “forgetfulness” on federally required financial reports of his wife’s $600,000 salary or her employment by an organization linked to cases before the court, then even though it is factual and a challenge to the legitimacy of the court, that has not been part of this blog..

    We are discussing a group of politicians, lawyers who have become judges. A judge questioning their decision is far less damaging than the race-based hatred shown by Republicans to our President. (BTW, denying race-based hatred by TeaBagger Republicans is lying and silly.)

    I do hope you overcome your vapors brought on by reading ‘stfu’ — it must be a trial for you. If your God is a group of politicians that we must never question, I understand why ‘stfu’ gives you the vapors.

  238. I disagree with any view that suggests that judges should not become more human by voicing their beliefs about things going on in the world [so long as they are not commenting on a pending case]. There is far, far too much elitism among judges, who imagine that there is some sort of transcendent majesty to their institutional roles and persons. Majesty was evicted from these shores in 1776, and now we have merely public servants, which includes those in black robes. Knowing well the records and capacities of many judges prior to their ascension, I find it amusing to hear those who didn’t know how to spell Constitution the day before their swearing in act, the next day, as if they are oracles of the intent of the Framers and are titans of legal academe. I sometimes snicker and snort aloud, but I generally can contain myself. So, I applaud Judge Kopf for his commendable humanity and candor and I encourage more judges to become human, since it is the human condition they generally sit in judgment of.

  239. I agree with you. The letter reminds me of everything that I despise about people in professions protecting each other… not wanting word to get out about malfeasance or malpractice. It’s just not done in polite society. I call bullcrap on that. The fact that this blog is making people uncomfortable is a GOOD thing. We need more people standing up for what’s right, not trying to shove everything under the rug because we don’t want to look at it.

  240. Dear Judge,

    I am not a lawyer and found your website late last year from an article in the Wall Street Journal where your efforts were praised. I spent some time reading your articles and found your piece called ‘Casual Cruelty’ to be immensely interesting for the decency you afforded the defendant who was too sick to speak for himself. I continued reading more articles including ‘Women Trial Lawyers’ and was very happy to discover a human kindness one doesn’t necessarily expect from men and women in black robes sitting behind a big desk with a gavel in their hands. I have followed your articles and your illness since then and take much from your courage to share your views and feelings.

    I would also like to add that telling SCOTUS to STFU was disappointing and maybe for the simple reason that I could not imagine speaking to you that way.

    There is much good in what you offer and I hope you continue.

    Kindest regards,
    Nancy Frey

  241. I disagree myself with the lawyers advice that prompted this whole conversation. But I think it unjust to characterize it as wanting to protect the legal profession in the icky way you suggest. Someone can be mistaken without that sort of bad faith.

  242. To the Honorable Judge Kopf,

    Please do not stop writing! I was never more furious than when Sandra Day O’Connor volunteered that Bush v. Gore — hundreds of thousands of unnecessarily dead and maimed people, and a squandered national treasury and reputation later — was a big mistake. 14 years too late.

    Somebody needs to keep it real in real time, because the wheels are coming off the US Supreme Court, and other courts, right this minute. STFU is okay with this lawyer. Scalia himself famously told his critics to go f— themselves in Italian, accompanied by the Italian equivalent of the Digitus Impudicus. Anybody crazy enough to decide a corporation is a person is crazy enough to do just about anything. This Emperor no longer has any clothes, or even a decently placed and sized fig leaf. A person in a position to speak truth to power without losing their job should do just that. And never stop.

    I spoke truth to power and lost my job. I wrote an article about it:
    I was shocked that I could be illegally fired for reporting an ethics violation and, in my professional opinion, a crime, after even the State Bar said I had to. I haven’t been able to get a job as a lawyer in this Arizona since. So I started writing.

    You, sir, are perfectly positioned to do exactly what your are doing. As I am a lawyer who also has a master’s degree in English, I have no problem with the occasional resort to the vernacular. A gentleman with whom I served for two years on an ABA committee, Professor Ira Robbins, wrote an article called: “Digitus Impudicus: The Middle Finger And The Law.” Another learned treatise put out by Princeton UP is simply styled “On Bullshit,” answering questions like: What is it? Why is there so much of it? And what purpose does it serve? For years there was even a literary quarterly devoted to the use of invective called, “Maledicta: The International Journal of Verbal Aggression.”

    Certain terms just perfectly encapsulate certain concepts, whether it’s “habeas corpus” or “STFU.” My personal favorite is “clusterf—.” (Is any real purpose served by substituting asterisks for words we all know?)

    Some of the most famous and successful lawyers and judges I know back in Texas curse a blue streak on occasion. However, in Arizona, “coarse language” will earn you a demerit or two on your permanent record with the bar.

    I find people who get up in arms over “bad words” either amusing or irritating, because the real obscenities are wars, kids locked in hot cars, torture, and the hundred or so murder cases I have worked on. I cannot think of a single word or phrase that could possibly offend me more than what I have seen as a criminal lawyer. When you have to know what stage of growth a maggot is in to determine when a small child died, “coarse language” seems vanishingly trivial.

    Some people are so ridiculous that they are offended when you paraphrase literary giants like British poet and satirist Alexander Pope, and say someone is being “damned with faint praise.” I attribute this tendency to a too shallow understanding of the Western Canon.

    So don’t listen to your critics, no matter how esteemed. Your words are nothing compared with the damage the extremists in the US Supreme Court and elsewhere in the judiciary are doing to themselves. And your words provide great comfort to lawyers who believe that what they are seeing and experiencing is crazy, but lack support elsewhere in their profession, from other lawyers who need a backbone transplant or are otherwise too scared to speak truth to power because of the great cost.

    Carry on, sir. Please.


    Karyl Krug, M.A., J.D.

    Sent from my iPad

  243. People can read the opinions, but most of us don’t, David. And before you complain about that, consider: RGK was not alleging that the 5 went that way because they are RCs and their church opposes contraception.

    His point was that in the real world in which the Court needs a degree of public respect, it is not prudent to take such cases and decide them on 5-4 splits, and especially one like this, unless there is a really good reason to do so. RKG wants to know what would have been so bad about ducking the case, denying cert. Before getting excited about RKG somehow accusing the 5 of voting teir religious preference, why not address his point.

    Maybe he’s wrong. Maybe it really was important and wise to take and decide the Hobby Lobby case. Then make that argument before you do anything else.

  244. Exactly. He also does not know the difference between contraception and abortion. For decades there has been a national consensus that while a woman has a constitutional a right to an abortion (because, by the way, enough liberals on the court said so), she does not have a right to require someone else to pay for it — especially if the other person has religious objections. The media’s recent insistence on redefining certain forms of abortion as contraception does not change reality. The Supreme Court was smart enough to see through that attempt at obfuscation and its decision is entirely consistent with the national consensus that people with religious objections should not have to pay for other people’s abortions; this so-called judge apparently is not smart enough to do the same. Yet another reason he should hang up his blog.

  245. You manage to miss several points. First, your definition of “abortion” differs from that of the overwhelming majority of medical professionals. You are entitled to your opinion, of course, but not to try to assert that it is some objective truth in the face of those who know far more than you (or me) about the subject.

    Second, you misapprehend what the Supreme Court did. (In this, sadly, you are hardly alone–most commentators seem to have done the same.) The court’s majority did not deal with issues of contraception–nor did it limit its’ holding to matters involving family planning, contraception or any related subjects. What the majority did was to pretty much ignore centuries of thinking about the nature of corporations and then say that those in control of a corporation could impress their views on their employees by calling them “religion.”

  246. I understand where this attorney is coming from, but I would say that justice is justice despite whatever guise it assumes (likewise, injustice is injustice despite whatever lies we tell to the contrary).

  247. Well, we’re allowed to disagree. I disagree with your disagreement about why I disagree with the letter. ;o) Personally, I don’t believe what I said is unjust in the least. I believe it is right on the money.

  248. If I am understanding both your concerns, and the concerns of the writer of the note from the Nebraska lawyer, it is that this blog will somehow damage the public trust in our legal system. My belief is that horse has already left the barn. Putting this as delicately as possible, the public is very well aware that it may be beneficial to be white, it may be beneficial to be male, and it may be beneficial to have deep pockets. Huge segments of our population fully understand that the legal system administers judgment, not justice.

    Even I, from a privileged background, a very comfortable present, and moderate interaction with the legal system (in the business context), have lost faith that justice is even the goal of the legal system, let alone the outcome. The first question to consider when contemplating a civil legal action is not right v. wrong, it is if one party has enough capital to make the legal details irrelevant.

    I very much encourage you to continue your blog – not for the purpose of informing the public of the weaknesses in our current legal system, but for the purpose of informing those inside our current legal system that respect for the institutions simply can not decline much from where it already stands. Just look how many polls rank lawmakers (those who make the law) and lawyers (those who administer the law). Maybe the public does see judges differently, but I am not sure how that is even relevant. If the laws are considered unjust, and law enforcement is considered unjust, and the lawyers are considered disreputable, the outcome of the process is deeply questioned.

    I find it refreshing that a person with integrity seems to survived in our legal system and actually been promoted to some level of responsibility. Even those of us that benefit greatly from our legal system expect mere judgment, not justice.

  249. Pingback: Gaming The Record (And Welcome Back, Kopf) | Simple Justice

  250. “I asked if I could reprint his communication without his name. He gave me permission to do so.” !

    Why w/o his name? Why would you listen to anyone w/o even the infinitesimal fortitude to sign his name to his communication? What’s the point? Why would you afford him or anyone else such a wimpout oppty?
    My Lord. No wonder law and the judiciary are in such disrepute.

  251. Dear Judge:
    Years ago I had the good fortune of sitting in Judge Larry Turner’s courtroom for a long long trial in Florida. Jury selection took months and there were early morning motion arguments, but real time court reporting, Judge Turner thought out loud in many of the arguments, taking us down different paths to see what could be some of the possible consequences of his decisions. It was wonderful. I never knew how rich and full the law was until then. Your blog reminds me of his delightful walks down legal woods and through the brambles, at times.

    I don’t want a cold calculating machine, no matter how efficient or balanced it promises to be to all people. A Judge who is human, warm, some warts even, who knows that perfection is not a goal of justice, though improvement is, is what you are showing us all.

    Please continue, knowing that many non lawyers like me have a deep appreciation of a system that has done well over the years, without adequate funding, and want it to continue (not the inadequate funding, the improvements). Though, after reading “The Law of the Other”, there are some improvements from the old old days that would be neat to empirically test.
    Dwight Hines


  252. Right on, and Thank You Mr. Hiersekorn for, if nothing else, exposing the in situ, Double Standard of the Left.

    Not that this is such a difficult thing to do, and yet with a small but multiple and very specific sample, clearly no one will even reply to your substance. As usual the Left and their minions will avoid thoughtful discussion. They prefer to argue from a simpleton’s emotional mindset.

  253. All Hail – The Burger-Meister speeketh … and giveth absurd, ludicrous and repugnant proof of his utter nonsense!

    And you know it!!

    But rather than a touchdown, you get only a goose-egg.
    Quack! Or should that be a Honk?

  254. Good grief. Another Liberal HYPOCRITE. (Oops, sorry to repeat myself).

    And One Who doesn’t want things shoved under the rug.

    UNLESS … its the many, MANY crimes and misdemeanors (and Felonies!)of liberal politicians that continue unabated and in the open. Yeah, plenty there for you to really despise, except that most of them are your heroes.
    I’m sure that won’t make you uncomfortable, will it?

  255. You know, the first sign of being an alcoholic is being drunk in the morning. You really should consider laying off and going to AA meetings.

  256. Ken,

    Thanks Ken. By the way,I used to attend AA meeting. Although I was never a drunk, my mother was one and I probably had that tendency. I found AA meetings helpful,and cheap therapy.I appreciate your concern for my well being. That’s why you wrote, right?

    All the best.


  257. No. That was in response to Willis’ insane ramblings above me. I didn’t intend to involve you in that exchange at all.

  258. There is that windmill you call liberalism, so large, so powerful, and all you have is a bent, rusty lance, and a tired old steed.

    If only you’d been around in the 1770s, you’d have had such a lovely red outfit.

    Listening to Conservatives whining about liberals, those poor old crotchety ones trying to play victim, while stomping on minorities.

  259. Willis – your fellow Conservatives are such a literary group. Yelling, screaming, marching through Target stores with their long rifles, applauding Larry Klayman, waving a Confederate battle flag in front of the White House.
    Such reasonable people, the Birthers and TeaBaggers, screaming about Kenya and for impeachment.
    Members of the Conservative side of the Court receiving financial benefits from those with links to cases before the Court ( Mrs Thomas’ salary of a half million, oops forgot that).
    Your have no room for snotty remarks when it comes to right wing political remarks. Turn on Faux Noise, after all Christ was a White Man………
    The right wing has worked diligently to fight every advance toward equality by minority groups in America. Back in the last half of the 1800s and first half of the 1900s, it was Southern Democrats; LBJ chased them to the Republican Party, where they were lovingly welcomed, and now run that asylum.
    ‘Thoughtful discussion’ from the right — yeah, ask the TeaBaggers…

  260. What the hell are you on about?? Are you just going to troll everyone you disagree with or are you actually going to post something of substance? Those questions were rhetorical, by the way. I already know the answer.

  261. I believe it is the height of legal intellectual stimuli to discuss Supreme Court decisions both pro and con. But I have spent several years coaching high school mock trial teams trying to instill in them elementary knowledge of our trial system, some basic propositions of law, and confidence and respect for our legal system as a whole. Reading that a federal judge told the Supreme Court to STFU, doesn’t make that challenge any easier. And Mr. Burger knows that there isn’t a judge anywhere in middle Tennessee who would tolerate that kind of language directed toward the Court. But is that next?

  262. RGK has already said that he understands that he needs to be more decorous in his choice of wording.

    I’d like to make the further point that he was in no way discussing the merits of the H. L. decision, but rather what he considers the Court’s poor judgment in even taking the case. What was wrong with just denying cert was his point, because of the policy mess that could not be avoided by even going there.

    I agree with him. But whether anyone else does or not, it’s important to remember that as a lower court judge, he has avoided disputing the legal merits. He only addressed the political implications, as any citizen may do, and having some knowledge of the legal system just lets him be more educated in his comments.

  263. A great many people are upset over your reasonable request that the Supreme Court ‘stfu’ and the Hobby Lobby case. Those who demand that you stop blogging tell us that your comments threaten how Americans view the judicial system.


    A judge in Texas sentences a teenage thug to a country club spa after he abuses alcohol and drugs, murders four people, and his attorney pleads affluenza – oh, by the way, his parents are extremely wealthy, he is white, and the judge is a ‘friend’ of Rick Perry.

    In Wisconsin, a man rapes his 12-year-old daughter repeatedly and the judge lets him off because he ‘wouldn’t do well in prison’ — oh, by the way, he is a billionaire and white.

    Now, tell me again how suggesting that the Supreme Court ‘stfu’ will harm how Americans view the judicial system.

  264. Judge, please don’t stop.

    As far as the letter you received, it is clear that it was written by a lawyer. It is long-winded, repetitive, and says in 10 words what it should say in one. Perhaps you should not respect this particular lawyer as much as you do.

    Concerning the arguments in the letter, here is my perspective, as a recently graduated law student:

    The author thinks that judges should hide behind the curtain, like the Wizard of Oz. Justice is amorphous and ambiguous, he says. Delivery of justice is mysterious, he protests. The hoi polloi are not fit to peer into the inner sanctum of justice. Only we, the lawyers, the priests of Themis, are to be allowed to serve her, and know her mysteries.

    Justice is amorphous? Ambiguous? Mysterious? It’s those kinds of comments that make people hate lawyers. We have been so indoctrinated in our law schools that there is no right or wrong, that the best argument wins, that we have forgotten what Justice is.

    Yes! Federal judges should have blogs! Yes! They should tell is who they really are and what they really think. And yes, they should get feedback from us so that, to use non-“course language” [sic](another reason not to listen to the letter writer), they can keep it real.

    So, Honorable Judge, I say to you that what is best for Democracy is sunlight. Show us the good, the bad, and the ugly. Because federal judges have tremendous power. And we need to know who we are giving this power to.

  265. I really can’t help but say “too bad” if your sensibilities were offended. Sometimes, the only way for people to sit up and take notice is to use a STFU or two. Yes, a judge … in an opinion blog … told the SCOTUS to STFU. Do you really think that’s something to light your hair on fire over? But hey, if you’d rather focus on that, than the reason why so much disgust was displayed in the first place, feel free.

  266. Thank you Rob. As you can probably see, I don’t use flowery words. So I think maybe I’m a little more sensitive to the fact that often people concentrate more on how something is said than the reason behind it. If we dig a little deeper we can discern who really are the jerks as opposed to who might be a little… inartful in how they express themselves. I hope I came off more as the latter and not the former! And I hope you give RGK that same benefit of the doubt. :o)

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