MICHELE NORRIS, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.
A veteran judge in St. Louis is causing quite a stir. He's Missouri Circuit Court Judge Robert Dierker, and his new book bashes what the judge calls dangerous liberal activism. Even before it was released, the first chapter made the rounds by e-mail. And NPR's Cheryl Corley reports that a formal complaint already has been filed against him.
CHERYL CORLEY: It's been a hectic week for Judge Dierker, with the release of his book. Racing from his courtroom to a building across the street, he begins the first in a series of telephone interviews on his cell phone in the lobby.
Judge ROBERT DIERKER (Circuit Court Judge, Missouri): I didn't really comprehend what is expected of somebody who publishes a book.
(Soundbite of laughter)
CORLEY: The judge's book, "The Tyranny of Tolerance: A Sitting Judge Breaks the Code of Silence to Expose the Liberal Judicial Assault," is a 200-plus page blast at what Judge Dierker calls the attempt by liberals to ram through their agenda for America. He takes aim at affirmative action, abortion, gay marriage, rulings about funding school desegregation efforts and other social policies.
Here's what he writes in his introduction.
Judge DIERKER: (Reading) "I have realized that the mutants have seized the controls of the courts and the legal profession. These are the modern liberals, the illiberal liberals. These are the people who regularly use the unelected federal judiciary to turn the constitution - formerly a blueprint for limited government - into a weapon for advancing their agenda."
CORLEY: Judge Dierker says he was spurred to write after he was admonished by Missouri's Commission on Retirement, Removal and Discipline - the state body which can sanction or remove a judge - for using strong language in an opinion he wrote several years ago in a sexual harassment case.
Judge Dierker apologized to the commission for what he called rhetorical hyperventilation. The strong language continues in this book. For instance, he calls women he believes are radical feminists…
Judge DIERKER: Femifacists.
CORLEY: And he repeats the language he was chastised for earlier, entitling the books first chapter The Cloud Cuckooland of Radical Feminism.
Shortly after receiving a copy by e-mail, Missouri State Senator Joan Bray filed a complaint with the judicial commission, asking it to investigate whether Judge Dierker had created an appearance of impropriety.
State Senator JOAN BRAY (Democrat, Missouri): When I read the chapter and saw, you know, the venom and the anger and the hate toward women, I immediately felt concern for women who might appear before this judge. And I don't know how he can be impartial.
CORLEY: The commission, which operates behind closed doors, wouldn't comment. But there's a long history of judges writing about legal matters, and Missouri's judicial canons encourage them to do so within reason. Judge Dierker has written far less controversial books.
Attorney Rich McNelley picks up one from the corner of his desk and begins leafing through its pages. The "Missouri Criminal Practice Handbook" is written and updated every year by the judge.
Mr. RICH MCNELLEY (Attorney): This is kind of the Bible when it comes to criminal practice in Missouri.
CORLEY: McNelley, who has practiced in Dierker's courtroom, says the judge's latest book is surprising, even though his conservative bent is well known. But McNelley doesn't believe the judge's views would hurt anyone coming before him.
Mr. MCNELLEY: As strong as Judge Dierker's opinions are, I think that the thing that he believes in most - it appears to me - is the rule of law.
CORLEY: Lynn Ricci has not appeared in Dierker's courtroom, but says she knows plenty who have. Ritchie is the head of the Women's Bar Association in St. Louis. She says if the judge was hoping to start a discussion with his book, he missed an opportunity.
Ms. LYNN RICCI (Director, Women's Bar Association, St. Louis): This man is in a position where he could do so much good. He has done good. But his legacy is not going to be the good that he has done. His legacy is going to be this outrageous ranting.
CORLEY: Judge Dierker makes no apologies for his language. He says it was necessary to capture the general public's attention.
Judge DIERKER: I'll quote Barry Goldwater, you know. Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice. Moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue. I think that boring language in defense of liberty is not the most effective.
CORLEY: While the judge waits to see if the commission will discipline him over his book, he may have a lighter caseload because of it. Missouri offers attorneys one chance to automatically change judges for any reason. And that's what some attorneys here say they'll do if Judge Dierker is assigned to hear their case.
Cheryl Corley, NPR News.
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