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Federal Judge Tells Women Lawyers Not To Dress Like ‘An Ignorant Slut’

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"Federal Judge Tells Women Lawyers Not To Dress Like ‘An Ignorant Slut’"

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Judge Richard Kopf, a George H.W. Bush appointee to a federal court in Nebraska, offered some strange advice to women litigators in a piece posted to his personal blog on Tuesday: don’t wear clothing that would cause “the female law clerks” to call you “an ignorant slut behind your back.”

Kopf’s comments were a reaction to a Slate piece by Amanda Hess entitled “Female Lawyers Who Dress Too ‘Sexy’ Are Apparently a ‘Huge Problem’ in the Courtroom.” Judge Kopf’s piece has the more provocative title “On being a dirty old man and how young women lawyers dress.”

Among other things, Kopf’s piece reveals that he has “been a dirty old man ever since I was a very young man. Except, that is, when it comes to my daughters (and other young women that I care deeply about).” And it includes a description of a “very pretty female lawyer” who practices in his court. “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.”

Kopf’s purpose in describing this attorney was to reveal that several of the women who clerk on his court viewed her as “unprofessional,” and to imply that perhaps a young attorney doesn’t want to incur the ire of a judge’s closest advisers. Whatever the wisdom of this advice, however, he picked a particularly inflammatory way to express it (in fairness, the “ignorant slut” comment is a reference to a famous, if very dated, Saturday Night Live skit).

One day after his original post, Kopf posted an apology, of sorts:

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.

(HT: Eric Lach)

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