by Thomas M. O’Toole, Ph.D.
Given the way many attorneys talk, I’ve always had this vision of our federal judges being bred in some special ivy league laboratory and raised on a special diet of Plato, Aristotle, Stephen Toulmin, Machiavelli, and others whose works are read only by those who accidentally get invited to dinner parties (i.e. “that guy”). I’ve always envision federal judges as the type who calmly walk away from a vending machine after their bag of chips get stuck in the E4 slot, experiencing no temptation to yell or show man’s physical superiority over machines. Then something amazing happened. A federal judge showed me a childhood picture of him in a Batman costume. Later in the conversation, he told me his wife and him watch So You Think You Can Dance (although, like me, his “watching” consists of sitting in the same room with his wife while it plays on the tele).
Then I read this blog (http://herculesandtheumpire.com/2013/06/20/top-ten-legal-writing-hints-when-the-audience-is-a-cranky-federal-trial-judge/) by Federal Judge Richard Kopf out of Nebraska. My mind bent and melted in ways it hasn’t since my freshman college dorm-mate once said, “hey, try this.” For starters, Judge Kopf talks about situations where he might want to “bitch-slap” counsel in “slow motion,” references Urban Dictionary, and discusses his temptation to refer to some trial attorneys as “retarded.” Reading further into the comments section of the post, Judge Kopf notes, “federal judges make mistakes all the time.” Continue reading