It's a sad day for the legal blogosphere. U.S. District Court Judge Richard G. Kopf, who delighted us with his frank response to the government shutdown ("tell Congress to go to hell,") and his take on a New York judge's removal from the widely-watched "Stop and Frisk" litigation (he stated that the Second Circuit "acted like an angry and petulant toddler,") is retiring from blogging, according to a post on his Hercules and the Umpire blog.
His more than 400 posts will remain online, though he plans to close the comments section after a week or so. Interestingly enough, the decision to cease blogging came after The Wall Street Journal mentioned the blog in a piece about judges speaking out through blogs, books, and media appearances. Judge Kopf noted the attention before stating that the decision was not due to ethics concerns, but instead was simply because he was out of things to write about.
Not Concerned With Ethics Concerns
Any person in the legal field who blogs has to be conscious of ethics concerns. Lawyers can't divulge client information without consent, and probably shouldn't comment on opposing counsel or local judges (that's more etiquette than ethics, but a worthy consideration nonetheless). Judges have to avoid the appearance of partiality (the issue that got Judge Scheindlin kicked off of the "Stop and Frisk" case) and are typically well-advised to avoid commenting on matters that are appearing before them.
Judge Kopf had no such issues, as his candid, introspective posts typically addressed system-wide issues (sequestration and the shutdown) or personal issues, rather than pending cases.
"I am not quitting because of ethics concerns. Such problems are real, but vastly overblown. A thoughtful judge has about the same chance of violating the Code of Conduct when writing a book, giving a speech, authoring a law review article or writing a blog post," Judge Kopf noted in his farewell post.
What was his real reason for quitting? Judge Kopf stated, "I have written all that I want to write and then some. It is that simple."
From February 2013 to January 1, 2014, he wrote 416 posts, a truly impressive total for someone who is blogging as a hobby. It's not a wonder he feels exhausted. My total is somewhere north of 2,200 posts. The question of "what the heck do I write about?" is something that I deal with every day. My approach to getting past writer's block is to write a legal news story, such as this one, or to write something completely out of left field, like my suggestion earlier this week that we (the indebted recent law grads) should all move to Detroit.
I also find that over-caffeinating helps.
Eventually, we'll all hang up our keyboards, whether it's due to issue exhaustion or finding a more exciting hobby. For Judge Kopf, his time is apparently now. We wish him well, and we'll miss his candor and insight.
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