Judges Who Blog
While the list of judges who blog is relatively short, those who do are making headlines. Senior U.S. District Judge Richard Kopf made his blog must read material when he recently commented on the irrelevancy of the Supreme Court.
His blog, Hercules and the Umpire, is not always so controversial. Recent posts have addressed why judges wear black robes and a visit with his grandchildren.
Judge Kopf’s other latest post to make a splash in legal circles offered “Top ten legal writing hints when the audience is a cranky federal trial judge.” They included:
- If you send me a brief knowing that you will lose, but you are hoping to “educate” me, you are, in the words of the greatest of all legal minds, Gene Wilder, one “stupid, ignorant son of bitch, dumb bastard.”
- Is it too much to ask you to read and follow the local rules? Remember the venerable Latin legal maxim: Rules are the opposite of sucks.
- Please don’t “bitch-slap” your opponent. It only makes me want to do the same to you, but in super slow motion.
In many ways, Judge Kopf is a rare breed.
Robert J. Ambrogi, writing for Law Technology News, recently published a rundown of current and former judges who blog from the bench. The international list included a range of blogs, from AsktheJudge.info, a legal resource blog directed to teens and authored by former Arizona juvenile and family court judge Tom Jacobs, to Country Judge, which Minnesota District Court judge Tom McCarthy states is intended to “reflect on the people, cases and work that have made my judicial career interesting and fulfilling.”
Given the ethical restraints placed on members of the judiciary, it is not surprising that Ambrogi’s survey of judicial blogs revealed only a handful of sites. However, it is not a violation to blog in and of itself. In fact, Judge Kopf addresses the ethics of judicial blogging on his own site. He characterizes blogging as short form scholarship, akin to mini law review article.
He further notes that the Code of Conduct allows judges to speak and write about the law. As highlighted in a comment to the Code of Conduct itself:
“Complete separation of a judge from extrajudicial activities is neither possible nor wise; a judge should not become isolated from the society in which the judge lives. As a judicial officer and a person specially learned in the law, a judge is in a unique position to contribute to the law, the legal system, and the administration of justice, including revising substantive and procedural law and improving criminal and juvenile justice. To the extent that the judge’s time permits and impartiality is not compromised, the judge is encouraged to do so.”
Judges must clearly be careful not to comment on ongoing cases or make statements that suggest bias or impartiality. However, given the unique knowledge and experience they have to offer to the legal community, it would be a shame to muzzle such insight.