Stephen Bough, who was nominated to the federal bench in the Western District of Missouri, regularly blogged about politics from 2007 to 2009. One of his posts has drawn the attention of Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley.
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.”
I think it sets a very bad precedent to disqualify judicial nominees who write stuff that may later be deemed unpopular. It creates a perverse incentive for those who want to achieve high office to keep quiet. I don’t want nominees to remain quiet. I want to know what they think. It is a shame that aspiring Judges (and really Justices), in the words of Pam Karlan, trim their sales for the potential confirmation hearing. Fittingly, Karlan was appointed to a position that did not require Senate confirmation.
Now, this is very different than judges who continue to blog after being appointed to the bench. Recent episodes with Judge Kopf highlight the precariousness of this medium for those in robes.