That’s Richard Kopf, a Senior U.S. District Court Judge here in Nebraska, writing on his blog earlier this week.
Kopf explains to female lawyers that they should dress more conservatively, giving the example of a young lawyer who draws a great deal of attention to herself — very positive attention from men and very negative attention from female law clerks — as a result of her physical attributes and her clothing choices:
“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. I especially appreciate the last two attributes.”
In the comments, when challenged by someone who said that at least three female law clerks had no idea who this young lawyer might be, Kopf argued that he wasn’t really referring to a specific person but to “an amalgam,” though he begins his description of the woman with the words “True story.”
Not surprisingly, the blog post has garnered a lot of negative attention. In a follow-up post, Kopf doubles down:
I honestly don’t care how you (or others) remember me.* 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.
In the rough and tumble world of a federal trial practice, it is sometimes necessary to see and react to that world as it is rather than as we wish it would be.
In other words, there are lots of men in the world of federal trial practice (and in the world, generally) who are sexists, who leer at women, who care less about the work done by a women than about her physical attributes. And the reality of this situation, the judge believes, obviously necessitates that women need to change their behavior and pay careful attention to the choices they make.
At some point, I have to assume, we’re going to move past this kind of nonsense as a society. But in 2014, when a federal judge feels totally confident about expressing this sort of opinion publicly for the good of women everywhere … well, we’re pretty clearly not there yet, are we?