U.S. District Judge Richard Kopf made headlines this week with his blog – but not in a good way. The federal judge told the Supreme Court to “stfu,” complete with link. The blog was personal, rather than business-related, but that didn’t keep the comment from affecting the Judge’s reputation.
“Five male Justices of the Supreme Court, who are all members of the Catholic faith and who each were appointed by a President who hailed from the Republican party, decided that a huge corporation, with thousands of employees and gargantuan revenues, was a ‘person’ entitled to assert a religious objection to the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate because that corporation was ‘closely held’ by family members. To the average person, the result looks stupid and smells worse. . . .
“Next term is the time for the Supreme Court to go quiescent– this term and several past terms has proven that the court is now causing more harm (division) to our democracy than good by deciding hot button cases that the court has the power to avoid. As the kids say, it is time for the Court to stfu.”
As lawyers (and judges), we are held to a code of conduct. That code doesn’t switch off with our office lights. We can’t take it off when we hang up our suit coats (or robes). It is with us every day, all day. And that counts double for our online actions.
Judge Kopf’s blog may have been personal, but it was clearly connected to his legal life and reputation. He blogged about political issues and attorneys who appeared before him. His stated desire was that:
“Federal trial judges be seen as individuals with all the strengths and weaknesses (baggage) that everyone else carries around.”
It should come as no surprise that his statements on that blog might attract attention and hurt his reputation, and possibly career as a federal judge.
The same is true if you or I maintain a personal blog outside the office or engage in social media. Our words can be traced back to our business, and they can hurt you. Just recently 2 Florida public defenders found themselves out of a job after they posted derogatory comments on Facebook about Palestinians using terms their office deemed hate speech.
Keep these cases in mind as you weave your way through social media this week. Your words affect your reputation, and (unless you are in Europe), the Internet never forgets. If you need help building a professional online image, contact blogging coach Lisa Schmidt for a consultation.