Note: Judgepedia will be read-only from 9pm CST on February 25-March 5 while Judgepedia is merged into Ballotpedia.
Starting on March 5, all Judgepedia content will be contained on For status updates, visit

Richard Kopf

From Judgepedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Richard Kopf
Current Court Information:
United States District Court for the District of Nebraska
Title:   Senior Judge
Position:   Seat #2
Appointed by:   George H.W. Bush
Active:   05/26/1992-12/01/2011
Chief:   1999-2004
Senior:   12/01/2011-Present
Preceded by:   Warren Urbom
Succeeded by:   John Gerrard
Past post:   Magistrate Judge
Past term:   1987-1992
Personal History
Born:   1946
Hometown:   Toledo, OH
Undergraduate:   Kearney State College (now U. of Nebraska at Kearney), 1969
Law School:   University of Nebraska College of Law, 1972

Richard Kopf is an Article III federal judge for the United States District Court for the District of Nebraska. He joined the court in 1992 after being nominated by President George H.W. Bush. He assumed senior status on December 1, 2011.[1]


Kopf graduated from Nebraska-Kearney in 1969 with his B.A., and later graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with his J.D. in 1972.[1]

Professional career

Kopf began his legal career as a law clerk for Judge Donald Ross of the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals from 1972 to 1974. In 1974, Kopf moved back to Nebraska to enter into private practice. He worked as an attorney until joining the court.[1]

Kopf was known on a larger scale as Lead Counsel for the State of Nebraska in regard to the impeachment of Nebraska Attorney General Paul Douglas in 1984. The Nebraska State Legislature impeached Douglas in connection with his handling of an investigation of a failed bank. Douglas was later acquitted of the charges.[2]

Judicial career

District of Nebraska

On the recommendation of Congressman Doug Brueter, Kopf was nominated to serve on the United States District Court for the District of Nebraska by President George H.W. Bush on April 7, 1992, to a seat vacated by Judge Warren Urbom. Kopf was confirmed with the unanimous consent of the U.S. Senate on May 21, 1992, and received his commission on May 26, 1992. Kopf served as the chief judge of the District of Nebraska from 1999 to 2004. He assumed senior status on December 1, 2011.[1][3] Kopf was succeeded in this position by Judge John Gerrard.

Kopf began his judicial career as a federal magistrate judge for the District of Nebraska. He served in this role from 1987 to 1992.[1]

Notable cases

"Boys Don't Cry" killer gets new attorneys appointed (2014)

In January 2014, Judge Kopf permitted John Lotter, a Nebraska death row inmate, to get new attorneys in his case. Lotter has been on the state's death row since 1996, after the 1993 murders of Lisa Lambert, Philip DeVine and Brandon Teena. The movie "Boys Don't Cry" was based on Lotter's nefarious exploits.


Multi-state dog-fighting ring (2009-2010)

     United States District Court for the District of Nebraska (United States of America, v. Julio Reyes, 4:09-mj-03035-RGK)

Judge Kopf was the judge in a dog-fighting case which was part of an increased crackdown by federal authorities on dog-fighting cases. On July 9, 2009, Judge Kopf allowed Julio C. Reyes, who was allegedly connected to a multi-state dog-fighting ring, to keep his four pit bulls.[4][5]

Public statements

Judge Kopf has published a personal blog, "Hercules and the Umpire," since February 2013. In the course of writing for this blog, he has attracted national attention for his outspoken views.[6]

After a comment made about the Supreme Court of the United States in July 2014, Kopf blogged that he had received several requests that he stop blogging. As a response, in an article, he wrote:

I care deeply about federal judicial transparency, I don’t see much of that and if I quit there would be even less of it and none of it from federal district judges. The implicit that mystery and mythology are better for the legal profession and the judiciary than transparency, particularly when the transparency revealed is raw. I profoundly disagree.[7][8]

2014 Hobby Lobby ruling

After the June 2014 SCOTUS ruling in the Hobby Lobby case, Kopf wrote, "To the average person, the result looks stupid and smells worse. The decision looks misogynist because the majority were all men. It looks partisan because all were appointed by a Republican. The decision looks religiously motivated because each member of the majority belongs to the Catholic church, and that religious organization is opposed to contraception."[9]

Kopf added:

Next term is the time for the Supreme Court to go quiescent–this term and several past terms have 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.”[9][8]

National election law expert Rick Hasen objected to Kopf's choice of words, saying:

Look: this is about respect for the rule of law. Lower court judges should not use profanities to criticize the Supreme Court. Even if you disagree vehemently with the Court (as I do quite often), respect for the institution requires some level of decorum. This is especially true for judges who sit in an inferior position to the Court. Just like a member of Congress should not yell out “You lie” to the President during the state of the union regardless of how much that member disagrees with the President, our social fabric depends upon expressing disagreement in a constructive and respectful way...Look, blogging is not for everyone, and I respectfully suggest that Judge Kopf either stop blogging or retire from the bench."[6][8]

"Dirty Old Man"

In March 2014, Kopf held forth on his blog about how young women should attire themselves in his court:

I have three rules that young women lawyers should follow when considering how to dress for court. 1. You can’t win. Men are both pigs and prudes. Get over it. 2. It is not about you. That goes double when you are appearing in front of a jury. 3. Think about the female law clerks. If they are likely to label you, like Jane Curtin, an ignorant slut behind your back, tone it down.[10][8]

He described a female attorney of his acquaintance:

"She is brilliant, she writes well, she speaks eloquently, she is zealous but not overly so, she is always prepared, she treats others, including her opponents, with civility and respect, she wears very short skirts and shows lots of her ample chest. I especially appreciate the last two attributes."[10][8]

He also indicated that he had "been a dirty old man ever since I was a very young man."[6]

2013 government shutdown

During the October 2013 shutdown of the U.S. federal government, Kopf urged fellow federal judges to designate all judicial employees as essential employees so that they could not be furloughed or temporarily laid off. He wrote:

Reject the premise of the question. Given the loss of employees already suffered by the judiciary on account of the sequester and otherwise, why shouldn’t every remaining employee of every federal district court (including FPD employees) be declared “essential?”[11][8]

Judge Kopf also wrote that if the federal judiciary were to follow his advice and declare that all its employees were essential, this would create two options: Congress could do nothing, removing any effect that a shutdown would have on the judiciary, or they could go "batshit" and "have it out."[11]

See also

External links


Federal judicial offices
Preceded by:
Warren Urbom
District of Nebraska
Seat #2
Succeeded by:
John Gerrard

NebraskaNebraska Supreme CourtNebraska Court of AppealsNebraska District CourtsNebraska County CourtsNebraska Separate Juvenile CourtsNebraska Workers' Compensation CourtNebraska Workers' Compensation CourtNebraska Problem-Solving CourtsUnited States District Court for the District of NebraskaUnited States bankruptcy court, District of NebraskaUnited States Court of Appeals for the Eighth CircuitNebraska countiesNebraska judicial newsNebraska judicial electionsJudicial selection in NebraskaNebraskaTemplate.jpg