They say brevity is the soul of wit, and one judge seems to have taken that saying to heart — with a side of implied profanity.
Senior United States District Judge Richard Kopf of Nebraska is both outspoken and plainspoken on his personal blog, and on Saturday he mixed a bit of Internet vernacular with judicial analysis, saying that the Supreme Court needs to “shut the f*** up.”
Technically, he wrote “stfu,” but he helpfully linked to the Urban Dictionary definition of the abbreviation so everyone could see exactly what it stands for.
In the blog post, Kopf was expressing a critical view of Supreme Court’s recent 5-4 decision in the Hobby Lobby case to pare back the Obamacare contraception mandate.
“To most people, the decision looks stupid ’cause corporations are not persons, all the legal mumbo jumbo notwithstanding,” Kopf wrote. “The decision looks misogynistic because the majority were all men. It looks partisan because all were appointed by a Republican. The decision looks religiously motivated because each member of the majority belongs to the Catholic church, and that religious organization is opposed to contraception.”
His prescription for the Supreme Court: ignore controversial cases.
“What would have happened if the Supreme Court simply decided not to take the Hobby Lobby cases?” Kopf asked. “Had the Court sat on the sidelines, I don’t think any significant harm would have occurred. The most likely result is that one or more of the political branches of government would have worked something out. Or not.”
Kopf pointed to the “passive virtues” of judicial restraint touted by the late Yale Law School professor Alexander Bickel.
“[T]he Court is now causing more harm (division) to our democracy than good by deciding hot button cases that the Court has the power to avoid,” Kopf wrote. “As the kids say, it is time for the Court to stfu.”
Kopf’s post sparked widespread media attention and a few calls for Kopf himself to “stfu,” one of which he republished on his blog Monday.
“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,'” wrote a Nebraska lawyer, whose name Kopf withheld. “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?”
Kopf is weakening the public faith in the legal system, the lawyer argued.
“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,” the lawyer wrote.
The lawyer noted that Kopf likely considered that he was performing a public good by presenting open legal thinking, but the lawyer disagreed.
“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,” the lawyer wrote. “I respectfully disagree and ask, for the good of the legal system, that you please stop.”
Kopf wrote in reply that he would consider the lawyer’s plea and that he might, in fact, be the one who shuts up.
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