From The “I Told You So” Files: Judge Kopf Finally Decides To “STFU”

There go de judge!

There go de judge!

Last year, I wrote a post about the intemperate blogging of Judge Richard G. Kopf, a senior district court judge on the U.S. District Court for the District of Nebraska. Actually intemperate doesn’t quite describe it: in his criticism of the Supreme Court’s decision in the Hobby Lobby case (the Ethics Alarms discussion is here) he wrote, “As the kids say, it is time for the Court to stfu” and linked to the Urban Dictionary so his less cool readers would take his meaning. I wrote:

That he did this on his blog, Hercules and the Umpire, doesn’t matter. It was in print, in public, and he’s a Federal judge. The obscenity came in the context of Judge Kopf’s criticism of the recent Hobby Lobby decision, but the context doesn’t matter either. There is no context in which it would be appropriate, judicial and ethical for a member of the judiciary to tell the Supreme Court of the United States to shut the fuck up. Nor does it matter that he used the texting code stfu rather than spelling out the words.

For a Federal judge to be openly disrespectful, uncivil and abusive to the top of the nation’s judicial branch is an assault on the rule of law, and undermines public respect for our institutions…. If the objective is to speed a complete breakdown in public respect for our institutions, divisive partisans like Kopf  and Wilson are doing a bang-up job. Neither they, nor you, nor I will like where this will lead if our leaders and officials don’t come to their senses.

This post, of all posts (I don’t think my position is rationally assailable, frankly) managed to get three commenters banned from the blog, essentially by 1) arguing that the Roberts Court doesn’t deserve the usual respect due to any court, and 2) telling me to “stfu.”  All were Judge Kopf acolytes who weren’t going to stay here to contribute anything positive, just uncivil, arrogant progressive lawyers who the judge-blogger had trained well.

Last month, a year after his obscene riff on SCOTUS, Kopf slipped again, writing that  “Senator Ted Cruz is not fit to be President.” The post wasn’t obscene; in fact it was  funny: Kopf, who had a year earlier condemned the Supreme Court for bias, argued that Cruz was not fit to be President because…

“Any rational person understands that we must accept decisions we like and decisions we don’t like when we ask the highest Court in the land to decide difficult hot button questions for an entire country. Judicial retention elections are fine for Nebraska and all the other states that have developed unique and parochial histories and traditions. However, we are talking about a federal Constitution–one that protects and covers 320 million people from Maine to Hawaii. Given the fractious divisions in our country that exist now (and many times in the past) and the obvious geographical fissures among the states (Red State/Blue State), judicial retention elections, fueled by whether a majority likes or dislikes particular Supreme Court rulings at a given point in time, is a formula for chaos and for further dividing our country into factions, a well placed fear held by the Founders.”

Wait…who is this guy? Surely he bears no relation to the sneering, potty-mouthed anti-Supreme Court critic I wrote about the last time? Continue reading

The Ethics Stories I’m Not Going To Write About


I am often tempted to write one of those short, bullet point, stream-of-consciousness posts like some fool used to pay Larry King to write for his awful syndicated column, which included trenchant observations like, “For my money, there’s no better game show host than Bert Convy!” Such a post would take a lot less time, and I could cover more of the myriad ethics issues I encounter in my research every day that for one reason or another—the main one being I have to work for a living—never make it to the pages of Ethics Alarms. But it’s my birthday, dammit; I am one year closer to death, I miss my Dad (you too, Mom, but you picked a better day to die), and it’s pretty clear that I will have “epic underachiever” on my headstone where Jack Marshall, Sr’s reads “Silver Star,” so in lieu of any other celebration, I’m going to, just this once, use the bullet point format to note a bunch of the things I normally wouldn’t get around to writing about. Like: Continue reading

Comment of the Day: “Ethics Carnage in Wisconsin…”

Pat earns the Comment of the Day by refocusing my attention on an issue I had been planning to examine in detail, only to be distracted by the swirl of current events. The issue is the ethics of public unions, a controversy in sharp focus during Governor Scott Walker’s overhaul of public employee pensions and collective bargaining rights in Wisconsin. Thanks, Pat, for  both your thoughtful comment and for getting me back to this important matter. You’ll  have my response soon.

Here is Pat’s commentary on “Ethics Carnage in Wisconsin: the Ethics Grades So Far”:

“No one need be a member of the union of concerned scientists to figure out the problem of collectivism in government. If Congress (or the Union) together decided to vote themselves $1,000,000 salaries per year (or exorbitant pensions for life), they could do it. That is the problem of collectivism and it is the problem of democracy – that can defeat the purpose of the freedom of elections. Ordinary taxpayers can be defeated by their own democracy in that regard, and it is no better than having a dictator under tyranny.

“The function of having free elections is to avoid that tyranny, i.e., by electing persons to office temporarily, not to be saddled with them for life (which is what congressional pensions produce). By most ethical standards, it would be congressional embezzlement by the nature of the authority to grant itself those pensions. The same would be true if Congress worked in conjunction with government employees to help them get reelected in order to perpetuate elective office for incumbents so that it can be effectively, for life.

“Both methods defeat the purpose of freedom of elections that is built into the congressional constitutional scheme that separates the elective office from the appointed and the government employee. Government pensions meant for government employees alone has been unethically and grossly inflated and granted to Congress and appointees in a blatant self-serving reward that defeats the purpose of having elections. Terms limits is the only method that can control that abuse of power.

“If government unions demands are too high, they may also need term limits to prevent arbitrary tapping into the proceeds of the taxpayer’s treasury, and thereby limiting what can be paid, and what can be taxed for.

“Public finance can defeat the purpose of democracy without such protections, and it is a necessary feature of all democracies to prevent the power of authority to abuse the power of the people, or there will be only wage slavery by government taxation.

“By tradition before government exploitation, government pensions were granted only to government employees – distinct from those elected – because they were employees. Elected persons are only temporary employees, and meant to be only temporary employees, and therefore not entitled to pensions. But that tradition has been grossly abused by self-serving elected employees to become privileged as elected and privileged as employees where it was designed to be one “or” the other, not one “and” the other.”

Mayor Bloomberg—Charting New Vistas in Ego, Shamelessness and Hypocrisy


New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg  now supports a ballot measure to restore the city’s term-limit law to two terms, the limit he voided to ensure his own third term by asking the City Council to approve a measure that allowed him to run again.

Bloomberg, you may recall, claimed in 2009 that he  supported three terms for himself, because he was best prepared to lead the city through tough fiscal times.

But nobody else. Bloomberg is special, you see. Continue reading