1st Circuit Issues 57 page Opinion About Toilets and a 7 Day Jail Sentence

On a lighter note, via How Appealing: Senior U.S District Court Judge Richard Kopf (Nebraska)has a blog about the role of a federal judge called Hercules and the Umpire. A few days ago he wrote a post opining that no misdemeanor and 7 day jail sentence for abuse of a toilet and bathroom warrants 57 pages in an appellate decision. The opinion at issue: U.S. v. Strong, decided last week by the First Circuit Court of Appeals. Judge Kopf describes the case:

In Strong, the defendant was convicted of three misdemeanors, and received a sentence of seven days in jail, for literally messing up a bathroom in a federal court-house. He claimed to have a problem with his bowels, but the government saw his conduct in a more malicious light.

Judge Kopf also includes some personal details in his post, including that he's a "toilet freak" and the worst part of moving from being regular District Court Judge to senior status was losing his private bathroom.

I decided to read some more of Judge Kopf's blog. Parts of it are really funny.

Check out his copyright page where he says what he writes is free for anyone to reproduce, with or without credit.

I have given up my law license. Indeed, it is a federal crime for federal judges to practice law. So, you can’t rely on anything I write as legal advice. Besides, after reading this blog, you would be an idiot if you thought I was providing legal advice.

On judicial robes and sequester:

Federal trial judges should ditch the black robes for something more regal!

....[B]lack is so, how I shall I say it, pedestrian. It does not properly reflect our superior status as FEDERAL TRIAL JUDGES. After all, the Constitution makes our salaries immune from the sequester. Personally, we don’t have to make any sacrifice at all while Congress destroys the judiciary.

If we want to throw money around for “real-time” and court reporters because it saves us from working our poor little fingers to the bone writing notes, well, then, great men and women are entitled to their prerogatives. Let the assistant federal public defender–who withdrew from a death penalty case yesterday because she had been fired under the sequester–eat cake. Some thing are more important than others. Because some things are more important than others, I think we ought to start wearing better looking robes.

He says he'd fancy this one.

On his contact page, he gives his (non court) email address and invites contact. He adds:

If you need a phone number or mailing address, send me an e-mail. Unless you strike me as really crazy, I will be happy to provide you with that information as well.

His blog also takes comments, about which he writes:

[O]ne of the commentators on Professor Berman’s blog expressed the thought that I am one of the dozen worst district judges in our country. That commentator has a lot of company. Several years ago, a radio guy named me as “Butthead of the Month” for one of my decisions. And, you should have seen the e-mails I received after my decisions in both of the partial-birth abortion decisions that ended up in the Supreme Court. (I compiled a list of the top ten, and perhaps I will publish it some day.) In any event, I appreciate both positive and negative comments and thank everyone for doing so.

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    But, back to the main point (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by scribe on Fri Jul 26, 2013 at 01:47:04 PM EST
    that 57 page opinion - including the dissent which contains 4 8 x 10 glossy photos - came about because a man, Mr. Strong, came to court to file some papers in his pro se challenge to the government having denied his social security claim.  He had a variety of maladies and, while going through security, found that he was losing control of his bowels.  He was escorted into the men's room and made a mess of it - he crapped his pants and had, if the record is to be believed, the world's worst case of survivable diarrhea, somehow covering 75 percent of the mens' room floor and getting it well up on the walls.  Taking the recital of the record at face value, he left his now-useless drawers behind and left the courthouse, implicitly not telling anyone (because of his extreme embarrassment).

    He was convicted of three misdemeanors involving knowingly despoiling federal property.

    One could legitimately question whether the local US Attorney was smashing eggshells with sledgehammers or just vindictive against someone having the temerity to challenge a social security denial.  And the appeal raised a legitimate question about the proper mens rea requirement to misdemeanors like those the defendant was charged with - enough of a dispute to split the Court of Appeals 2-1.

    Instead, everyone seems to be having a lot of fun with an unfortunate man finding himself in an even more unfortunate situation and being made into a criminal over it.  Potty humor.

    I enjoy Judge Kopf's blog.  He writes well and with an excellent point in each of his points.  I particularly like the story about his briefcase, made for him in prison by a criminal defendant he represented years ago.

    But let's not lose sight of the forest for the trees.

    Despite what Jeralyn says, I'm not a leftist (5.00 / 1) (#4)
    by cabs on Sat Jul 27, 2013 at 04:06:35 PM EST

    Seems the Judge wasn't very happy about being referenced as a leftist..

    His loss..

    Haha, Jeralyn gets a shout out (none / 0) (#5)
    by Teresa on Sat Jul 27, 2013 at 06:37:20 PM EST
    thank you for linking that

    I was just impressed (none / 0) (#6)
    by Jeralyn on Sat Jul 27, 2013 at 07:18:28 PM EST
    to see a federal judge blogging in a conversational tone, instead of legalese -- I know nothing about Judge Kopf's politics or court rulings. At least he understood I was being complimentary.

    I've only had one case in federal court in Omaha, and enjoyed my 8 or so trips there. Almost every Labor Day I post the photo I took of the labor sculpture by Matthew Placzek and mention Omaha has the second largest memorial to labor in the country. Here's a larger official photo, it was built with two-hundred-fifty tons of cement and 39,000 pounds of steel.

    While I don't expect to get another case there, I sure hope I haven't worn out my welcome.


    Wow! (none / 0) (#7)
    by Mr Natural on Sun Jul 28, 2013 at 09:50:42 AM EST
    A federal defense lawyer's blog, a federal trial judge's blog... all we need to complete the picture is a federal prosecutor's blog.

    Any takers?


    Ha, Jeralyn (none / 0) (#1)
    by Teresa on Fri Jul 26, 2013 at 06:36:05 AM EST
    Thank you for the morning laugh. I don't know his politics, though I can guess based on who appointed him, but I can't help but like the guy.

    His comments on the sequester were funny, but make me angry when I read them seriously, as I bet it does him.

    Also, I'm glad I don't eat breakfast :)

    Now if MilitaryTracy comments with her sense of humor, you'll have really made my day!

    apparently, (none / 0) (#3)
    by cpinva on Sat Jul 27, 2013 at 01:23:53 PM EST
    Besides, after reading this blog, you would be an idiot if you thought I was providing legal advice.

    judge kopf hasn't been out and about with his fellow citizens of late, or watched the news/read a paper/checked out the internet.