Perhaps you’ve recently heard of Richard Kopf, the federal judge from Nebraska who blogged the other day about the damage the U.S. Supreme Court rendered with its ruling in the Hobby Lobby case.
Kopf had some terse words for the five justices who decided that corporations had religious rights under the Constitution, speculating that they’d just poured more salt on the wound of public respect:
To most people, the decision looks stupid ’cause corporations are not persons, all the legal mumbo jumbo notwithstanding. 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. While “looks” don’t matter to the logic of the law (and I am not saying the Justices are actually motivated by such things), all of us know from experience that appearances matter to the public’s acceptance of the law.
And with that, Kopf said, it was time for the Court to “STFU.”
Needless to say, those four letters coming from the mouth of a federal judge provoked a variety of reactions, from jeers to cheers.
In his blog, election law expert Rick Hasen took the high road, arguing that it was NOT alright for a federal judge to curse out the nation’s highest court:
Look: this is about respect for the rule of law. Lower court judges should not use profanities to criticize the Supreme Court. Even if you disagree vehemently with the Court (as I do quite often), respect for the institution requires some level of decorum. This is especially true for judges who sit in an inferior position to the Court. Just like a member of Congress should not yell out “You lie” to the President during the state of the union regardless of how much that member disagrees with the President, our social fabric depends upon expressing disagreement in a constructive and respectful way.
But to his surprise, not many of his readers agreed (at least based upon comments on his twitterfeed).
Here’s a few:
For his part, Kopf – after being duly chastised by a respected Nebraska lawyer — has decided to back off from blogging for a while:
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.