The latest lawculture scandal concerns A3G, otherwise known as “Article III Groupie,” the once-anonymous author of the blog “Underneath their Robes,” (aka UTR) a sort of fan-club webblog for the federal judiciary that gossips about federal judiciary style, demeanor and yes, even some jurisprudence. Until this week, A3G was believed to be a woman; she described her goals as becoming a “federal judiciary diva,” and commented on the attractive features of the 19 year old son of Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito (the description was more to the point: he’s apparently a “hottie”). See http://www.newyorker.com/talk/content/articles/051121ta_talk_toobin. A substantial community of bloggers and fellow federal judiciary fan club members are apparently appalled or embarrassed or just plain confused by the revelation of A3G’s true identity as, well, a man. See, e.g., http://volokh.com/posts/1131979281.shtml; http://www.yalefedsoc.org/archives/2005/11/dude_blogs_like.html. A3G, also now known as David Lat, a thirty-something Assistant U.S. Attorney in Newark and a Yale law graduate, has dismantled his blog in all the hubbub.
Given the unorthodox mixing of high and low culture that is captured by the title of the blog itself, what is the big deal? Is it really the gender bending? Has the loyal readership of UTR revealed itself to be pathetically traditional when it comes to gender roles, but also nonetheless substantially nonconformist when it comes to imagining and gossiping about the private lives and thoughts of federal judges? Or is it the breach of confidentiality and anonymity that has the UTR readership up in arms? Are A3G’s fans upset because the fun of UTR was in guessing which “diva” in the New York metropolitan area is in fact A3G? Was the draw in the mystery of her, and now that she has revealed herself, the draw has dissipated? Sound like a familiar and stereotypical courtship narrative?
Perhaps the hullabaloo, then, is because the courtship is indeed over. But why can’t A3G continue to entice, comment on and challenge the “traditional” discourse around federal court practice? Why can’t A3G exist as an alter ego to David Lat, or better, as a full-blown equivalent in the blogosphere? Why can’t fellow bloggers suspend their disbelief (as we all do every day when we enjoy theater, film and novels, as just some examples) to learn about and interact with the larger popular culture? Do blogs occupy a different space than these more traditional creative art venues? Or, are legal blogs, specifically, sacrosanct, presumably devoid of “fictive” impulses? Why can’t the fact of A3G’s “fictive” identity be a revelation of the good work “fiction” does in our legal culture (and otherwise)? I hope that readers of UTR miss A3G enough to urge her back; we should all be sufficiently sophisticated consumers (and producers) of law and culture (lawculture?) to appreciate the play that is (or was) UTR.