Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Should judges blog?

I say yes.  If Supreme Court Justices can write books and give speeches, what's the real difference?

Judge Kopf stopped blogging, but wishes more judges would get involved (via NLJ):

A month after U.S. District Judge Richard Kopf of Nebraska abruptly shut down his controversial blog, he still believes federal judges and even Supreme Court justices would do “far more good than harm” if they publicly blogged and tweeted.
“Properly done, the public’s perception of the federal judiciary is enhanced when judges speak and write candidly about our courts,” Kopf said in an exclusive interview with The National Law Journal.
Kopf added that he might blog again—but not about judging or the law. “I have burned too many bridges to continue that activity on a regular basis,” he said, expressing regret about some but not all of his headline-making blog posts over the past two years.
For example, he stood by his June 22 post in which he urged Justice Anthony Kennedy to “zip the pie hole shut” on issues like solitary confinement.
The 68-year-old Kopf ended his blog Hercules and the umpire on July 9, after learning from Judge Laurie Smith Camp, chief of the U.S. District Court for Nebraska, that it came up during a retreat for court employees that Kopf did not attend. She told him that the "great majority" of the employees indicated they felt his blog had become an embarrassment to the court.
That discussion followed a July 6 post in which Kopf pronounced U.S Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, "demonstrably unfit to be president" because of his proposal that Supreme Court justices stand for judicial-retention elections every eight years.

Some of the Q&A:

NLJ: With benefit of hindsight, do you think you should have stayed your pen, so to speak, and not posted your more controversial opinions? I'll ask about some of them, one by one. First, telling the Supreme Court to STFU because it decided to rule on the Hobby Lobby case involving contraceptive coverage in health care plans.
Kopf: First, nothing that follows is intended to make excuses for my many errors. I don’t regret writing most of the Hobby Lobby post. The last sentence is the one I regret. Specifically, I do regret using “STFU.” Using that acronym was unnecessary and distracting; it was also too cute by (at least) half.
NLJ: What about your comments about how female lawyers dress in your court, and your reference to a woman who "wears very short skirts and shows lots of her ample chest." You added, "I especially appreciate the last two attributes.”
Kopf: The subject of how female lawyers dress for court was worthy of discussion, but the post was offensive. When I wrote it, I thought the post was merely sardonic and self-mocking. I was wrong. But, as my old law partner and dear friend used to say, there is no fixing dumb, and that applies to me in spades.


Anonymous said...

judges should not write books either, while they are serving... and clearly no blogging; that is what you are for

Anonymous said...

The short answer is the the overwhelming majority of judges should not blog. Most judges simply do not have the proper judgment to rattle off blog posts in the heat of the moment. Kopf is a perfect example. you could tell the difference between this posts that were the product of serious thought and deliberation and the ones he posted in the heat of the moment. The former were quite good and latter were invariably bad. But apparently, he could not control himself. I believe that his posts were so offensive he should resign from the bench.

And, writing books and giving speeches are quite different than blogging as you must know. Books and speeches for the most part are the product of serious thought and deliberation (and in the case of books the product of outside editing).

non-lawyer said...

Yes, judges should blog. Reminds us of their humanity. Reminds them of their humanity.