Article III Groupie Disrobed: Thoughts on Blogging and Anonymity
posted by Daniel Solove
“Article III Groupie” is the pseudonym for the mysterious author of a wildly popular blog about the federal judiciary, Underneath Their Robes. The blog is a lighthearted and witty discussion of the federal judiciary, chronicling the lives of judges and law clerks. Article III Groupie (or A3G for short) describes herself as an attorney from a Top 5 law school who works at a “large law firm in a major city, where she now toils in obscurity.” She writes: “During her free time, she consoles herself through the overconsumption of luxury goods. Her goal in life is to become a federal judicial diva.” Her identity has long remained shrouded in secrecy.
As she describes her blog:
This weblog, “Underneath Their Robes” (“UTR”), reflects Article III Groupie’s interest in, and obsession with, the federal judiciary. UTR is a combination of People, US Weekly, Page Six, The National Enquirer, and Tigerbeat, focused not on vacuous movie stars or fatuous teen idols, but on federal judges. Article III judges are legal celebrities, the “rock stars” of the legal profession’s upper echelons. This weblog is a source of news, gossip, and colorful commentary about these judicial superstars!
Her blog has become a regular read among the legal blogosphere. Even federal judges enjoy it. According to a New Yorker article:
The blog has many fans, including Richard Posner, the legal scholar and federal appeals-court judge in Chicago. “The beauty contests between judges can’t be taken very seriously, but I enjoy the site,” he said. “It presents good information about clerkships and candidates. It’s occasionally a little vulgar, but this is America in 2005.”
People have long wondered who A3G is. The drawing she supplies on her profile page is of an attractive Sex-in-the-City-type diva . . . and one who purports to be starstruck by the nerdy world of the federal judiciary. How exciting that someone–anyone–-is even interested in this lonely corner of the world in the same way that groupies are into rock stars!
But alas, the myth was deflated when A3G unmasked herself (voluntarily) in an article in the New Yorker. A3G is actually a man, David Lat, a Yale Law School graduate who works as an Assistant United States Attorney. The legal blogosphere has been abuzz following this startling revelation.
This amazing disrobing has left me with a few musings about blogging and anonymity.
First, what will the consequences for David Lat be? He’s a federal prosecutor, and the word will quickly spread about his authorship of the blog. Will his supervisors look kindly on his blogging? I hope that it wouldn’t interfere with his work, and I’d would be very sad to see any bad consequences come from his blogging. As A3G said earlier in an interview with Will Baude about why she remains anonymous:
The law is a fairly conservative profession, and being known as a legal gossip-monger would not be good for my professional advancement. It also wouldn’t help me in my lifelong ambition to become an Article III judge. Issuing snarky commentary about sitting federal judges won’t put me on a fast track to the federal bench.
What would happen if Lat were nominated to be a federal judge, his grand dream? Imagine those confirmation hearings! But maybe our generation–and especially the rising generation–will all be explaining away many a blog post at confirmation hearings.
Second, what will the consequences for the blog be? Will he continue to write as a woman? One commenter in a post about A3G at the Volokh Conspiracy wrote: “This is terrible. I can’t read that site knowing the author is a man.” Part of the excitement about the blog was the diva-esque personality of the blogger. Will the blog work now that it is known that the author isn’t really a woman? The excitement is gone. The female persona is a fiction. Anonymity provided a sense of mystery to the blog. Now that mystery has vanished.
Third, why did he reveal himself? Why unmask himself and risk his career and the future of the blog?
As Lat explained, he revealed himself because he was spending a lot of time on the blog and finally wanted to get credit:
Although he intended to remain anonymous, the success of the blog made coming clean irresistible. “I felt frustrated that I was putting a lot of time into this and was unable to get any credit for it,” Lat said.
Anonymity allows people to escape accountability for their words, but this comes at a cost — the loss of authorship credit under one’s real name. Lat wanted to have the praise and attention his female alter ego A3G was getting. He wanted to have his labor and toil on the blog associated with his name. But the irony may be that in his quest to get credit for the blog, he’ll destroy the blog (and maybe himself) in the process. It remains to be seen what will happen.
And for all those nerdy law clerks — toiling away at legal research late into the night, pining away for A3G, imagining that sexy diva starry-eyed over their dreary existence — they’ll just have to once again accept the cold emptiness in their lives and continue plodding through cases and briefs alone in their judge’s chambers.