Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Disparaging the Courts: One Pro Se Litigant and One Federal Judge at a Time

On April 23, 2015, Mike Huseman posted an interesting motion filed by a pro se litigant in a Georgia federal court. The motion titled, “To F*ck This Court and Everything that it Stands For,” adds insult to injury by referring to the judge as, “you old, IMPOTENT geezer.” Mr. Huseman opined that the motion warranted a stiff contempt sentence. And it’s hard to argue with him especially in light of the outrageous statements in the motion. But let me offer some mitigation based on the most comparable situation that I could find. That situation involved another federal judge. But in this instance the judge was the offender, not the victim. Federal district court judge Richard G. Kopf criticized the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision in his blog, “Hercules and the Umpire” (here). After blogging that the Court’s decision “looks stupid and smells worse,” the judge concluded his post with, “it is time for the Court to stfu.” A link to the Urban Dictionary explained that “stfu” is an acronym for, “shut the f*ck up.” Now, some might argue that a motion and a blog are not comparable. I agree. The blog post is worse.

First, the pro se motion was directed at a single judge whereas the blog post was directed at nine judges. Second, the Georgia motion was directed at the lowest level federal judge while the blog post was directed at the country’s highest ranking judges. Third, no one with the possible exception of a judge’s law clerk reads pro se motions. On the other hand, “Hercules and the Umpire” is a popular blog read by thousands. (The Hobby Lobby post elicited 314 comments.) Fourth, the federal judicial code requires judges to “act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.”  No similar ethics rule binds pro se litigants. Fifth, the pro se motion, in effect, states that the court is worthless. Well, everyone is entitled to their opinion. But the federal judge’s blog post not only questions the integrity of the Court but goes further and demands that the Justices not exercise their God-given rights guaranteed by the First Amendment.

So, on balance, the pro se litigant probably should not receive worse punishment than the judge who authored the blog post. And yes, that would be no punishment.