Kopf: Murdering Judicial Collegiality

I have been a Magistrate Judge, a Chief District Judge and now a Senior District Judge. I have clerked at the Eighth Circuit and sat as a judge at that court by designation. I have had the pleasure of handling cases in several other district courts in the Eighth Circuit. I have appreciated more than I can explain the judicial collegiality that I have always experienced in the District of Nebraska and in the Eighth Circuit more generally. Sadly, however, I have now seen a Chief District Judge in the Southern District of Florida murder judicial collegiality. It makes me want to vomit.

Consider, please, footnote 2 to an opinion of Chief District Judge K. Michael Moore of the Southern District of Florida adopting in part and rejecting in part a report and recommendation submitted by Magistrate Judge Lisette M. Reid in a pro se case.[i] Here is the footnote:

The Court adopts in part Magistrate Judge Reid’s R&R with the following alterations: the pin cite in the citation on page six, line seven should be “1279” and omit citation to “n.2”; the pin cite in the citation on page seven, line seven should be “1223, n.2”; the case name on page seven, line nine should read: “Goebert v. Lee Cty.”; the quotation on page nine, line six should read: “[The] right must be . . .”; the pin cite in the citation on page nine, line thirteen should be “1121”; the quotation on page thirteen, line eleven should read: “We do not require a case directly on point, but existing precedent . . .”; the pin cite in the citations on page fourteen, lines one and six should be “589–90”; the quotation on page seventeen, line five should read: “Miami-Dade County and/or Public Health Trust”; the quotation on page eighteen, line nineteen should read: “[it] can rise to the level . . .”; the pin cite in the citation on page twenty, line seventeen should be “589–90”; the parenthetical on page twenty-one, line nine should read: “offering extraction over a root canal is not a constitutional violation if an extraction is medically appropriate to remove tooth decay”; the citation on page twenty-seven, lines five to six should read: “219 F.3d 132, 137 (2d Cir. 2000)”; and the citation on page twenty-seven, line nine should read “219 F.3d at 132.” Finally, the Court notes that it does not adopt citations in the R&R that do not conform to The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation (Columbia Law Review Ass’n et al. eds., 20th ed. 2015).

 Balbin v. L. Concepcion, et al., Case No. 1:18CV20875-KMM (S.D. Fla., (September 26, 2019). (Emphasis added by Kopf.)[ii]

Publicly upbraiding a colleague over citation issues is both nuts and harmful to the collegial functioning of the judges within his district. Chief Judge Moore owes Magistrate Judge Reid an apology. And, while he is at it, he should get a life.

Richard G. Kopf
Senior United States District Judge (Nebraska)

[i] Here is her background prior to being appointed a Magistrate Judge on January 3, 2019. The judge received a B.A. in Economics from the University of Missouri in 1983, and a law degree from the University of Missouri School of Law in 1986. She began her legal career as a law clerk for Chief Judge Andrew J. Higgins at the Missouri Supreme Court. In 1987, she was accepted into the United States Attorney General’s Honors Program, and moved to Miami, Florida, to serve as an Assistant United States Trustee. In 1989, she became a member of the Florida Bar and, in 1990, left the government to become a litigation associate at the Miami law firm of Valdes-Fauli, Bischoff, Kriss, & Mandler, P.A. For the next five years, her practice focused on bankruptcy law, and other commercial litigation in both state and federal courts. In 1995, she joined the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida as an Assistant United States Attorney litigating civil cases. In 1997, she transferred to the appellate division where she wrote hundreds of appellate briefs and argued both civil and criminal cases before the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. She also trained Justice Department lawyers at the government’s National Advocacy Center in Columbia, South Carolina, serving as an instructor on appellate advocacy, legal writing and ethics for appellate lawyers. The judge previously served on several court committees before her appointment. She served on the Rules Committee and on the Ad hoc Committee on Attorney Admissions, Peer Review, and Attorney Grievance of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.

[ii] The 33-page R&R and the 16-page Opinion can be found at David Oscar Markus, Judge Moore is really serious about the Bluebook (updated), The SDFLA Blog (November 07, 2019). I tip my hat to Mr. Markus.

20 thoughts on “Kopf: Murdering Judicial Collegiality

  1. stevie g

    Thanks judge. But why do I get the sneaking feeling that the footnote was written by some nerdy law clerk, to upbraid an obviously inferior but maybe not-so-nerdy law clerk?

    Reply
    1. Richard Kopf

      stevie g.,

      Could be.

      Law clerks write footnotes for me too. But never would I have allowed a law clerk write such trivial snark about a judicial colleague of mine. Hell, I write a lot for myself without the help of a clerk and I would sooner cut off a limb than write such crap about a judge down the hall.

      I also think the footnote, no matter who wrote it, reveals two other things.

      I. This was a pro se case and the chief district judge must not be busy and doesn’t play golf. So far as I am concerned, the R&R could have been written in crayon and I would not have cared. Cases are widgets to be disposed of efficiently so you can get on to the next one. By the way, I think the R&R of the MJ was actually quite thoughtful and fully dealt with all the issues, spending 37 pages to do so.

      2. I have heard from an MJ colleague of mine that mistreating MJs is a sort of blood sport in some districts revealing that Article IIIitis, that is, egotism, is out of control in a few (and perhaps more than a few) federal district courts. At least here in flyover country, MJs are treated as valued equals and that is at it should be. After all, all denizens of third tier toilets–Article III and Article I judges of the federal district courts–are integral to the effective functioning a trial court. Being an ass to a colleague is not conducive to effective functioning of a court.

      All the best.

      RGK

      Reply
      1. Sgt. Schultz

        I wonder if Skink would have given a lengthy, if somewhat tangential, reply to Stevie, or just said, “In this here hotel, we don’t have feelz about who wrote it, since the judge who puts his name on it owns it either way,” then sent him to the door.

        Where is Skink, anyway?

        Reply
    1. Richard Kopf

      Kathleen, I think it has something to do with Pinterest. But I could be wrong.*

      All the best.

      RGK

      * A pinpoint citation, often called a pincite, is necessary to point the reader to specific the page(s) within the case. Pincites are placed after the page on which the case begins, separated by a comma and a space. A pincite may consist of a page range or multiple pages that are not consecutive. To cite a footnote, give the page on which the footnote appears, “n.,” and the footnote number, with no space between “n.” and the number.

      Reply
        1. Richard Kopf

          SHG,

          I am not surprised, I don’t even have a copy of my own. I have adopted my own uniform citation system. I use whatever the hell form I want.

          Jan, the Blue Book super expert in my office flinches, but she has been with me since 1993 and now mutters, “whatever.” More seriously, close enough is just fine in the frenzied world where we work.

          By the way, as a commentator on David’s blog pointed out, the offending footnote itself contained a Bluebook error.

          All the best,

          RGK

          PS I’m so old that I remember when the Bluebook was white, truly.

          Reply
        2. B. McLeod

          Here in the flats, neither our courts nor our legislature recognize this thing. I had to suffer an early version of it in school, but in my first clerking job, the litigators I was supporting told me to ignore the “Uniform System” and conform citations in briefs to the forms used by our appellate courts. I still have some of my old books from law school, but not the pointless, useless blue book of random bullshit.

          Reply
      1. Kathleen Casey

        Those are jump cites! I have always use jump cites. They are no trouble and from the reader’s point of view, a practitioner or judge, it saves time and trouble in a time of need to delve.

        And I know all those rules. In my bones. I have never followed the period with a space in a footnote “n.” I looked it up the first time. Not the comma and space placements. We just know, from endless reading. Isn’t that true?

        But why be a critic? If the reasoning is persuasive and the authorities on point no harm no foul.

        Reply
      2. Kathleen Casey

        Dear Judge Kopf,

        I am behind schedule on thanking you. Thank you for your informative response. And for being you. Thank you!

        Kathleen

        Reply

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