The Blogging Judge
|Judge Richard Kopf|
But what if, when you start your blog, you are already famous, or have a position of power? That is the case of the blogging judge: Federal Judge Richard Kopf of Nebraska and his briefly run and recently shuttered law blog, Hercules and the Umpire.
Like it did to us here at the Law Blogger, it may strike some a touch indecorous that a federal judge, with all the power and responsibility surrounding that gig, would venture into the sweaty world of the blawg. Yet beginning with his first post in February 2013, this is precisely what Judge Kopf did.
The blogging road was rocky for Judge Kopf, as a sitting federal judge; not too many Article III judges are willing to put their opinions and analysis out there for public consumption beyond what they write in their official opinions, orders and judgments.
At one point last summer, the good judge, who truly and obviously liked to share his well-reasoned views on all things legal, considered throwing in the towel. He reconsidered, however, after soliciting guidance from the blogosphere and from other sources, and continued to post-away on his beloved blawg.
Then, with the heat and passion of Election 2016 already engulfing the nation, Judge Kopf apparently went too far in one of his posts. What a difference a year can make.
The offending post commented on Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz's proposal that SCOTUS justices should be subjected to "retention elections" every 8-years. Judge Kopf concluded that Cruz's apparently serious proposal rendered him "demonstrably unfit to be president".
Here's the problem: federal judges are proscribed via judicial canon from supporting or opposing candidates for public office. Judge Kopf admitted as much in an apology he issued during a recent National Law Journal interview, acknowledging the Cruz post as his "most embarrassing error".
In addition to transgressing a judicial canon, Judge Kopf apparently was also under pressure to stop blogging from his colleagues on the bench. Following a summer retreat for employees of the Nebraska federal court which Judge Kopf did not attend, the subject of his blog was discussed by judges and employees alike. The chief judge made Judge Kopf aware of the consensus at the courthouse about his blog: it was considered an embarrassment.
Much to the disappointment of the legal blogoshpere, where many legal commentators and scholars found his dedicated effort to "keep it real" as very refreshing, and an excellent source of judicial perspective, Judge Kopf called it quits, and for good this time.
Interestingly, the judge's blog posts are still viable so his take on the legal issues of our day remain available for consumption, for now. It will probably be some time before another judge, especially an Article III judge, takes up the mantle of law blogger.