Federal Judge to Women Lawyers: Don’t Dress Like ‘An Ignorant Slut’

By , March 28, 2014.

Federal Judge Richard Kopf, not surprisingly a George H.W. Bush appointee from Nebraska, wrote a blog post offering what he thought was valuable advice to female lawyers: “don’t dress like a slut.”

In his post, titled “On being a dirty old man and how young women lawyers dress” on his blog “Hercules and the Umpire: The Role of the Federal Trial Judge,” Kopf suggests women don’t wear clothes that would cause “the female law clerks to call you an ignorant slut behind your back.”

He says he has been “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).” He cites a “very pretty female lawyer that sometimes practices in his courtroom. “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.”

He notes a recent incident, writing “In a recent case involving this fine young lawyer every female law clerk in the building slipped in and out of the courtroom to observe her. I am not exaggerating. I later learned that word had gotten around about this lawyer’s dress. Acknowledging that the lawyer was really good, the consensus of the sisterhood was uniformly critical. “Unprofessional” was the word used most often. To a woman, the law clerks seethed and sneered. They were truly upset.”

He completes his post with three suggestions for female lawyers:

“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.”

After catching some heat for his writings, Kopf replied “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.”