‘Dirty Old Man’ Judge Wants To Tell Women Lawyers What To Wear

A male federal judge in Nebraska is getting attention for writing a blog post Tuesday about “how young women lawyers dress.”

“I have three rules that young women lawyers should follow when considering how to dress for court,” U.S. District Court Richard Kopf wrote on his personal blog. “1. You can’t win. Men are both pigs and prudes. Get over it. 2. It is not about you. That goes double when you are appearing in front of a jury. 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.”

Kopf was nominated to his current position by President George H.W. Bush, and was confirmed by the Senate on May 21, 1992. He has maintained a personal blog, titled Hercules And The Umpire, since February 2013.

Kopf’s post Tuesday was prompted by a recent Slate article titled “Female Lawyers Who Dress Too ‘Sexy’ Are Apparently a ‘Huge Problem’ in the Courtroom.” In his own post on female attire in the courtroom, Kopf wrote that he has “been a dirty old man ever since I was a very young man.” He recounted how at the church wedding of one of his daughters, he insisted that his wife look in the church’s lost and found to “locate a demure white sweater for [his other daughter] to wear over her very revealing frock.” And Kopf also wrote about a “wonderfully talented and very pretty female lawyer who is in her late twenties” that he knows.

“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,” Kopf wrote. “I especially appreciate the last two attributes.”

In a follow-up post on Wednesday, Kopf acknowledged that his first post had “generated a fair amount of perfectly fair criticism.” He responded to a column written by Erin Grace in The Omaha World-Herald.

“I honestly don’t care how you (or others) remember me,” Kopf wrote, while noting that he may be remembered for writing opinions striking down state and federal “partial-birth” abortion statutes.”I do care passionately that federal trial judges be seen as individuals with all the strengths and weakness (baggage) that everyone else carries around. If, on balance, you think the post was harmful to the image of the federal judiciary and truly treated women as objects, I am very, very, very sorry for that, but I would ask you to pause and reread it. I hope you will find upon objective reflection that the mockery I make of myself and the hyperbole and somewhat mordant tone I employed, made a point worth considering.”

A federal judge with a personal blog is an odd thing. In section of his blog titled “The Who, the Why and the Title of this Blog,” Kopf explained that a law student first brought the idea up to him seven years ago. According to Kopf, his current senior status as a judge lessened his “reticence” to blog. He briefly shut down the blog in January, but he has since returned, and has also used the blog to write about his diagnosis of Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

“I am very interested in the role of judges and particularly the role of federal trial judges,” Kopf wrote. “So, that is what I will write about in this blog.”

Kopf did not immediately respond to an email from TPM seeking comment.

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