While he thought the story was inspiring, a distinguished federal appellate judge from another Circuit thought my use of a vulgarity (“suck”) in the post about Shon Hopwood offended good taste. I am glad the judge cared enough to write, and I sincerely thank him. Although I am not keen on receiving lectures on taste and decorum, the judge’s candid criticism about my use of rough, profane or vulgar language caused me to reflect seriously on his point.
I am of two minds. On the one hand, I understand the great strength of the judge’s point. Among other consequences, jarring language such as the word the judge complained about may unnecessarily diminish respect for other judges. Moreover, judges should model civilized writing if for no other reason than they expect civilized discourse from others. Still further, bad words are simply losing their utility in our coarsening society. On the other hand, I want to demystify the work of federal trial judges. Sometimes, rough language expresses my thoughts in a way that more refined language would mask. Indeed, from where I sit, much of what I see and hear is actually profane and vulgar no matter how I might wish to sanitize it.
So, what have I decided? I will continue to write in the style that suits me. But I will redouble my efforts to avoid language that unnecessarily offends or distracts. That’s the best I can do. Actually, that’s all I am willing to do.