Stephen Bough. ()
The potential pitfalls of lawyers who blog were on display Thursday on Capitol Hill, where it was revealed that a federal judicial nominee once wrote that readers of his blog “will agree I shouldn’t be a judge.”
Stephen Bough, a personal injury lawyer and former law school adjunct professor nominated for a spot on the Western District of Missouri, regularly posted commentary on a political blog between 2007 and 2009. Back then, he was the chairman of a group called Committee for County Progress.
At a confirmation hearing at the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, brought up the “shouldn’t be a judge” line with a smile and a laugh. “One time you said something you might regret,” Grassley said. Then he read a partial quote from Bough with the line.
It turns out that the full quote is more benign. Bough was describing the opinion of a small group of people. “You and the 3 other folks who read this blog will agree I shouldn’t be a judge,” Bough wrote in the comments section of a 2007 post.
But Grassley warned Bough his old blogs were getting plenty of new readers on Capitol Hill.
“I just wanted to make sure you are aware that some question whether you possess the temperament we typically look for in a candidate for federal judge,” Grassley said. “I just wanted you to know in fairness that we’ll be taking a close look at your writings on that blog and I imagine some of my colleagues will as well.”
Bough’s writing on politics and judicial selection come from a Democratic point of view. One of the posts, from 2009, links the corruption allegations against now-deceased Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, to current Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo.—who would cast a vote on Bough’s nomination.
“Here’s hoping Missouri voters end Roy Blunt’s political career too,” Bough wrote at the time.
Grassley didn’t ask questions about any of the blog posts, and Bough didn’t volunteer any response. The nomination of Bough, who runs his own law office in Kansas City, remains pending before the judiciary committee.
Grassley’s remarks about Bough’s blogging come at a time of national scrutiny about judges—yes, judges—who blog. Well, at least one judge.
U.S. District Court Senior Judge Richard Kopf, who sits in Lincoln, Neb., got caught in a whirlwind of controversy after telling the U.S. Supreme Court to “stfu” in a post about the Hobby Lobby contraceptives ruling.
“Blogging is not for everyone,” Rick Hasen, an election law blogger and law professor at University of California–Irvine, told the Los Angeles Times. “I respectfully suggest that Judge Kopf either stop blogging or retire from the bench.”
Kopf has kept up his blog, Hercules and the Umpire.
Contact Todd Ruger at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @ToddRuger.