WTF, Federal Judge?

WTF, Federal Judge? March 28, 2014

This just leaves my jaw agape at the idea that someone could become a federal judge and show such staggeringly poor judgment. A federal judge in Nebraska wrote a blog post about how female lawyers should dress in the courtroom. It included this passage about a real lawyer that appears before him:

In candor, I have been a dirty old man ever since I was a very young man. Except, that is, when it comes to my daughters (and other young women that I care deeply about). And that brings me to the amusing debate about how (mostly) young female lawyers dress these days…

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

*headdesk* Seriously, how do you get to that position while having absolutely no idea why this is astonishingly inappropriate? And of course, this guy has a lifetime appointment so there’s little that can be done, though he can be sanctioned by the judiciary itself. And he should be.

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  • Donnie

    The lawyer, who I assume will be identified shortly, should appear in his court next time in a burka. Assuming that the judge complains because he cannot see her face, she should remove the burka and be in a two piece swimsuit. Maybe the Federal Judge will get the idea.

    Most likely, he would be embarrassed, fine her for contempt of court, and prejudice against her in the future. The power of social media in the hands of people who do not understand the consequence of social media.

  • I see it as amusing, and nothing more. I also think you should have quoted his entire remarks as well as his followup post. He handed out some very practical advice.

    It certainly isn’t inappropriate to tell anyone, lawyers included, that their first priority should be on making sure that their audience can and does focus on their argument instead of on their person.

  • Oenotrian

    From the comments on his blog:

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

  • flatlander100

    Sorry, Ed, I’m with jenny @2 above. It was a largely self-deprecating post by the judge, and a comment on how women in court inevitably have to put up with others ( often women) drawing conclusions from such, and even sharing same sotto voce out of the room. Don’t think he was applauding it, particularly, just noting it. And the fact that men who find a woman in a public place good lookin’ are likely to look, and maybe smile. I don’t find that worthy of a snit-fit-in -outrage.

    PS Not being a woman, can’t speak from personal knowledge whether women who see a guy they think good lookin’ in a public place are likely to look, and maybe smile. But I suspect so.

  • I am thrilled to say that, though I’m also from Nebraska, I’ve never met this fucking jerk.


    ‘I hope the title evokes an image of two poles. On the north, we have the late great Ronald Dworkin’s all knowing judge, Hercules. On the south, we have Chief Justice Roberts’ formulation of the judge as umpire.”

    is from his “Who, What, Why” page. It’s pretty much all I needed to read but a few of the comments under his post are illuminating, especially, after the judge reveals that “True story” was about an amalgam, a pastiche, if you will, of several young women from several different places–so not a true story.

  • John Horstman
  • beezlebubby

    Over most of the last year, I dated a court reporter for NY’s 5th Judicial District. She has a litany of horror stories about the INSANE shenanigans and goings-on in the courthouses she reports to. It sounds a lot more like Delta House than court house. We’re talking judges, prosecutors, and all manner of court officials who act like oversexed, drunken teenagers. And these are the people we entrust our criminal and civil justice systems to! I know enough shit to blackmail several of them. Psychopaths!

  • This post is completely worthless without photos.

  • corwyn

    go watch _My Cousin Vinny_.

  • karmacat

    If you read through the comments, you will learn the judge was not actually talking about a real woman. When he was confronted about this, he claimed, his example was an amalgamation of women lawyers he has met. His whole blog entry is odd. So he made up a story just to prove he is a dirty old man

  • matty1
  • colnago80

    I can recall at the beginning of the OJ Simpson trial the “expert” commentators on cable TV criticizing Marcia Clark for wearing short skirts. I remember one catty remark from a female lawyer to the effect that, well, the legs are the last to go.

  • David C Brayton

    As a a lawyer, I’ve always been troubled about whether arguments/tactics that are likely to be effective but that are not on point should be used.

    If a judge or jury were likely to be swayed by the appearance of my attorney’s bosom, I’d say hell yes. I know it would be demeaning to her, but I’d want an attorney that would do anything (not illegal of course) to beat the charges.

    What if it were me in that position? I don’t have the looks or even personality, so its kinda silly to even think about. But would I, assuming that I was a partner in a law firm, instruct my associate to dress kinda slutty and flirt with the judge? I don’t know the answer to that.

  • Synfandel

    @8 janiceintoronto wrote:

    This post is completely worthless without photos.

    Forget it. You’ll never see that sort of thing on the Internet.

  • cjcolucci

    As someone who, like this judge, has been a dirty old man since he was a young man, and who works as a lawyer in court, I have to say that, whether the judge’s post was appropriate or not, it was not incorrect. It is inadvisable, and not usually a service to the client, for women lawyers to dress in a way that accentuates their sexual attributes, however much the judge may enjoy the show. (It would, of course, likewise be inadvisable for male lawyers to do that, too, but among their/our many fashion and taste sins, that is not one of them — so far, anyway.) Women lawyers would, in my experience, give similar advice, in blunter terms. My lawyer wife and I remember watching Jagged Edge and both commenting on Glenn Close’s inappropriately tight skirt in the courtroom scenes. I couldn’t take my eyes off of Close’s ass, and the cameraperson set up the shots as if that were the plan. Maybe it was, at that.

    A few years ago, I was one of the last persons kicked off during jury selection in a crimial trial in the Bronx. I mentioned to my wife and to other female attorneys (all used to my dirty old man schtick) that I was disappointed because the prosecutor was hot and wore very tight skirts and I was looking forward to seeing her parade up and down for several days. Every woman I mentioned this to knew exactly who the prosecutor was (I hadn’t caught her name, being too busy looking at her ass) and rolled their eyes.

  • Matt G

    I sure hope his daughters read what their father wrote!

  • @16:

    They probably lived with him for a lot of years and probably already know what he’s like.. He seems genuinely surprised that anyone would be upset by his post.

  • tsig

    Why do some men feel it’s their right to make slutty comments about young women?

  • laplanck

    It will be funny when people remember Richard Kopf for some blog post rather than for his efforts to protect a woman’s right to choose in his opinions in both of the Carhart cases that originated in Nebraska.

    In any event, when it comes to his “three rules” for courtroom attire, he’s dead on, especially with rule #2.

  • @19:

    It will be tragic, actually, but it will be of his own doing.

  • leni

    In any event, when it comes to his “three rules” for courtroom attire, he’s dead on, especially with rule #2.

    I thought that very same thing, except about his rule #1.

    Let’s review:

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

    Nothing says “It’s not all about you” like saying ‘It’s all about me, get over it.”

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

    Double, you hear that ladies? Your appearance is not an issue doubly when you are in front of other people.

    Except when it is, get over it and see point number one.

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

    Think about the male lawyers you hate. Is “slut” a word you’d ever use to describe them? No? Then maybe tone it the fuck down.

  • leni

    I just can’t get over this asshole.

    Would this shit fly if he were talking about anything other than Slutty McSlutpants Esq.?

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

    Does that seem like a reasonable sentiment?

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

    Still reasonable?

  • iknklast

    Seriously, how do you get to that position while having absolutely no idea why this is astonishingly inappropriate

    It’s Nebraska.