Mimesis Law
6 July 2020

The Proper Response When an Offender Laughs at a Judge During Sentencing

Oct. 28, 2015 (Mimesis Law) — “Ruling upholds extra prison time for felon who laughed during sentencing.”

So wrote the estimable Howard Bashman yesterday, linking to the opinion and the breathless news coverage.  That got me thinking.

Not often, but within the last week for example, a defendant has laughed at me during sentencing. While I have a flash of anger, I have never sentenced someone to a longer prison term because of such behavior.  Why? ‘Cause I always think of the following incident.

I remember an obese judge in these parts whose docket consisted of a fairly large number of professional prostitutes. He tired of seeing one in particular. Thus, he sentenced the prostitute to jail rather than the customary fine.

The lady of the evening then responded, “You’re a fat fuck!” She added, “I suppose your’re gonna give me more time.”

The overweight judge paused. Then said, “No, madam, truth is an absolute defense!”

As judges, maybe, just maybe, we ought not to take ourselves so seriously. But, what do I know?

Richard G. Kopf
Senior United States District Judge

8 Comments on this post.

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  • CLS
    28 October 2015 at 11:41 am - Reply

    Your Honor:

    I think if the entire world’s populace stopped taking themselves so seriously we’d be better off collectively.
    Sadly, that view is a utopia, and therefore it remains incumbent on those of us with a sense of humor to laugh as heartily and often as we can.


    • shg
      28 October 2015 at 12:40 pm - Reply


      • Jill McMahon
        28 October 2015 at 2:01 pm - Reply

        I third.

  • Randy Scott
    13 December 2015 at 4:55 am - Reply

    Fantastic judge your courts and all courts are open and the public can attend. There are very little secrets from the bench. Why not blog it is just a louder version of the public voice anyway? I don’t get the resistance among the few. But let me tell you among the many you are unbelievable inspiring. Thank you

    Even if I was to disagree and be a blowhard I don’t sense you would throw the book of authority against me and eviscerate the US Constitution.

    • Richard G. Kopf
      14 December 2015 at 7:32 am - Reply


      Thanks for your nice comment. By the way, perhaps I will tell a true story where I once saw a crusty old state judge literally throw a book at a lawyer. But that’s a tale for another day.

      All the best.


      • losingtrader
        8 June 2016 at 12:43 pm - Reply

        What was the book?

  • losingtrader
    8 June 2016 at 12:49 pm - Reply

    Before he was removed from the bench, Sam Kent supposedly increased a defendant’s sentence from 20 to 30 years because he didn’t like the fact the defendant’s family showed up in court and cried for him at the sentencing.
    This was told to me by a very good federal CDL who said the judge had said in chambers he though 20 years was about right in a discussion with the prosecutor and the defense attorney.

  • Jim
    9 June 2016 at 1:14 pm - Reply

    Do you or the judge or anybody know that laughing is not consciously controlled? do you know that people react by laughing to a host of stressful situations? Punishing someone for an unconscious reaction is sick, and has nothing to do with justice.