Monthly Archives: September 2012

The Eventual Firing of Daniel Picca: Why Our Children Are Not Safe In Public School

Wait…is that a CHILD’S hand?

Today, in a scathing editorial, the Washington Post related the shocking story of the firing of Daniel Picca, a Montgomery County, Maryland  elementary school teacher who was suspected by school officials of having inappropriate relations since at least 1995. This was, said the Post, ” a stinging indictment of a school bureaucracy that for almost two decades believed it had a problem but reacted with a seemingly endless flow of ineffective warnings, letters, reprimands and — most appalling — reassignments of the teacher to other schools and other students.” Montgomery County, it should be noted, boasts of one of the finest public school systems in the nation….or so we have been told.

Picca, as was detailed by a hearing examiner  in 2010 and by an administrative law judge this year, had been warned for 17 years about his conduct with young boys, including inappropriate touching, having students sit on his lap, “wrestling” with the boys and inviting some to an extracurricular “Strong Boys Club” of his own invention, where he encouraged male students to remove their shirts, according to student testimony. In 1995, county child protective services  said that Picca was responsible for “indicated child abuse.”The school system now says it missed this, somehow—not that it didn’t have plenty of evidence already. Continue reading

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Filed under Education, U.S. Society

Jury Summation: 20 Conclusions Regarding Elizabeth Warren’s Law License Controversy

1. Elizabeth Warren may have engaged in the unauthorized practice of law in Massachusetts at various times.

2. It is not as clear that she has done so as her primary accuser, Prof. Jacobson, appears to believe, nor is it as certain that she has not done so as her reflexive defenders assert.

3. If she did practice Massachusetts law without a license, it is very unlikely that she did so intentionally.

4. It is also likely that at this moment, she herself is unsure whether she did or not.

5. I very much doubt that if she did as Prof. Jacobson asserts,  that would lead to discipline by the Massachusetts Bar. The discussion of the issues surrounding Warren’s situation make it clear that a) the whole area of unauthorized practice when it involves state and Federal law is relatively unresolved and murky, with even  legal ethics experts in disagreement, b) it would be impossible to separate the professional regulation of the matter from its political content, and 3) any time members of the disciplinary committee slap their foreheads and say, “Damned if I know!” when the discussion turns to what the rules require, discipline is unlikely, and properly so.

6. The fact that Warren may have blundered into UPL between the varying requirements of her two bar memberships and her intermittent practice in Massachusetts does not make her unfit to practice law.

7. It may, combined with her unwillingness to candidly and thoroughly reveal all documents that bear on the issue, call into question her fitness to be a U.S. Senator, especially one running on the proposition that regulations on another profession (the financial sector) need to be strictly followed and tightly enforced. It definitely is worth exploring and explaining to voters, which the mainstream media clearly does not intend to do. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Education, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement

Remember, This Is The Best Newspaper in America

All the News That’s Fit..oh, the hell with it.

From an editor’s note to the New York Times article, “Last Call for College Bars,” which originally ran on September 26:

“An article on Thursday described the effect of social media use on the bar scene in several college towns, including the area around Cornell. After the article was published, questions were raised by the blog IvyGate about the identities of six Cornell students quoted in the article or shown in an accompanying photo. None of the names provided by those students to a reporter and photographer for The Times — Michelle Guida, Vanessa Gilen, Tracy O’Hara, John Montana, David Lieberman and Ben Johnson — match listings in the Cornell student directory, and The Times has not subsequently been able to contact anyone by those names. The Times should have worked to verify the students’ identities independently before quoting or picturing them for the article.”

Think about this the next time you read a Times story from an anonymous source. Continue reading

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As Dean Wormer* Would Say To Bryan Craig: “Sex-Obsessed, Promiscuous and Stupid Is No Way To Be A High School Guidance Counselor, Son…”

The Rich Central High principal suspected something was amiss with the girls’ basketball coach when the team members began to act strangely…

A provocative variation on the “naked teacher” scenario has surfaced in Chicago suburb Olympia Fields. Bryan Craig was a guidance counselor and girls’ basketball coach at Rich Central High School until his self-published book “It’s Her Fault” came to the attention of parents and school administrators. Then he was placed on administrative leave, and finally, fired.  The book is for mature audiences only, and based on reports (I haven’t read it and have no intention of doing so) includes pick-up advice, analysis of female body types (including a discussion of the varying colors and temperature levels of the vaginas of various races, apparently the book’s highlight) and Craig’s insight into how women think, a perspective that appears to be muddled at best and sexist at worst. Here is a passage from the book (in an Amazon reader’s review—a favorable one, and from a teenage stripper):

“In some cases, strippers and dancers show the overall dominance a woman can have over a man. Not to say that stripping is what has to be done to truly establish dominance, but these women’s mind-set is in the right place in order to meet the true potential of the point of this book.” Continue reading

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Filed under Education, Ethics Scoreboard classics, Gender and Sex, Workplace

Ethics Quote of the Day: Fox News Anchor Shepard Smith

 “…We really messed up. And we’re all very sorry. That didn’t belong on TV. We took every precaution we knew how to take to keep that from being on TV. And I personally apologize to you that that happened. Sometimes we see a lot of things that we don’t let get to you – because it’s not time appropriate, it’s insensitive, and it’s just wrong. And that was wrong. And that won’t happen again on my watch and I’m sorry.”

—-Shepard Smith, Fox New Anchor, in his immediate apology to viewers after a live police chase Fox News had been showing to viewers ended with the pursued car’s driver suddenly committing suicide with a pistol shot to the head.  Apparently the network had gone to a 5 second delay in the eventuality of such a development, but technicians still failed to stop the feed in time.

“CUT AWAY! CUT AWAY!!”

Jack Ruby shot Lee Harvey Oswald on live TV. Those of us who saw the twin towers fall saw 3000 souls die as it happened. I understand Smith apologizing pro forma for an unexpected moment of violence, but the statement,

“Sometimes we see a lot of things that we don’t let get to you…”

…is troubling. Continue reading

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Ethics Quiz: Is This A Trustworthy Lawyer?

“Your Honor! I object!”

Sarah Naughton, for 8 years a Cook County (Chicago) prosecutor, was arrested and charged after she and a male companion caused a disturbance in an adult store when they were asked to leave ( they appear to have been bombed). After banging on the windows and calling out obscenities, the two got in a tussle with the store’s employees, and Sarah allegedly bit one of them on the leg.  She also apparently pulled the infamous, “Do you know who I am?” card, to which I guess I would have answered, “Lindsay Lohan?”

Here is video of the aftermath: the prosecutor is the one wailing and insulting the officers as she sits handcuffed on the pavement.

She has been placed on administrative leave for now.

I know: we all have our bad days and nights, and some of us don’t handle liquor very well. Naughton apparently hasn’t done anything like this before; on the other hand, her conduct does not exactly burnish the reputation of Chicago Law enforcement. Your Ethics Quiz, as we head into an ethically challenging weekend (as they all are):

Does this unfortunate private behavior in this one incident show that she lacks sufficient trustworthiness and professionalism to represent the Cook County prosecutor’s office? Continue reading

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Nakoula’s Arrest and Imprisonment: The Big Chill [UPDATED]

More than a week ago, one of my blogging, legal, ethics idols, Ken at Popehat, took issue with my post stating that the midnight questioning of Nakoula Basseley Nakoula (the alleged producer of “Innocence of Muslims,” the crude anti-Islam film then being blamed by the Obama administration for all the violence that erupted in the Middle East on September 11) would appear both abroad and at home to be in retaliation for his exercise of his free speech rights, and should have been avoided even if it was otherwise justified by his parole violations. Ken wrote:

“…What separates us from the mob is the rule of law. We shouldn’t ignore the rule of law by violating First Amendment principles in what Eugene Volokh correctly points out would be an utterly vain attempt to appease a mob. On the other hand, we shouldn’t hinder the rule of law to avoid the appearance of appeasement, either. That’s still letting the mob dictate our actions and our adherence to our own laws. “We would normally do X, but we mustn’t because it might enrage the mob” is just the flip side of “We would normally do X, but we mustn’t because it might embolden the mob.” Both are a sucker’s game. The mob’s actions are going to be driven by its own culture and by the people manipulating the mob for their own political gain. Jack, and others, seem to be saying that the mob will misunderstand the orderly administration of the law in this instance: but is there really any chance that the mob will ever make an honest attempt to understand, or will care, or that the forces manipulating them will react honestly? Respect the rule of law and fuck ‘em if they don’t like it.”

On this blog, commenter tgt was more succinct:

“Jack’s view of law is that if you are enough of a dick, you should be immune from prosecution for any action.” Continue reading

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“And Now We Welcome You To Another Episode of “As The Media Shrugs”! Elizabeth Faces Exposure As a Dishonest and Unlicensed Lawyer…Will She Finally Reveal The Truth? Will Voters Care?”

“Nope, no way to Texas; can’t get to New Jersey…maybe I should just bite the bullet and get a Massachusetts law license? Nawww, who’s going to care?”

No major newspapers or broadcast news outlets seem to care, but what was originally dismissed as a partisan blogger’s over-reaching accusation has been bolstered by more than one smoking gun, proving Elizabeth Warren’s untrustworthiness and lack of fitness for high office.

Robert Eno of Red Mass Group, who joins Prof. William Jacobson as a blogger doing dogged and necessary research on the Massachusetts Senate candidate, has convincingly shown that Warren’s justification of her practice in Massachusetts, sans law license, doesn’t work, because what she says can’t possibly be true.

Earlier this week, Warren tried to rebut Jacobson’s allegations by explaining, “I haven’t practiced any law since 2010 since I went down to do the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. I’ve been a member of the bar in Texas for all of my career, in the Supreme Court bar, and until a few weeks ago the bar in New Jersey.” Warren and her defenders also argued that Jacobson’s claim that she was operating a regular law office out of her Harvard faculty office, which would make her an unlicensed Massachusetts practitioner, was inaccurate. Warren periodically was involved in cases in Federal court, which did not require a  Massachusetts license, they said. All that was necessary for Warren to appear before various Federal Courts was for her to be duly licensed in a state or territory, and file a statutory request to the court to appear.

Warren’s problem: it is beginning to appear that she may not have been properly authorized to practice law anywhere, or, if she was, she had to be using her Harvard office as a regular law office, meaning that she was practicing Massachusetts law. Without a license.

Here is what Eno discovered:

1.  Warren says she has been a continuous member of the Texas bar,which is technically true but misleading. After following her constantly changing spin while explaining her undocumented status as an affirmative action beneficiary, I believe misleading us is her intent. Yes, she has been a member of the Texas bar during her whole career, but during most of that period she was not allowed to practice Texas law, which was the topic under discussion when Warren cited her membership. Kim Davey the Public Information Officer for the State Bar of Texas told Eno that Warren has been on inactive status in Texas since June 1, 1992. Inactive status means a lawyer is not authorized to practice law. Warren says that she only stopped practicing law (while living and working  in Massachusetts) in 2010, which means that she could not rely on her Texas license while she was at Harvard.

2. Thus it must have been her New Jersey law license that made Warren eligible to appear in Federal Court. But there’s a problem there, too. New Jersey rules hold that a lawyer can only be a licensed attorney in good standing in New Jersey if that lawyer maintains a bona fide office for the practice of law. The office can be in any state, but it must qualify as a law office, or New Jersey’s license to practice law is no longer valid.

This means that Warren is mired in a Catch 22. If, as her defenders and Warren have maintained, she was not engaged in the practice of law because her Harvard office did not constitute  “a systematic and continuous presence in Massachusetts for the practice of law” (because Warren was just a typical Harvard law professor who now and then helped write a few briefs for the U.S. Supreme Court and out-of-state federal courts), then she could not meet New Jersey’s licensing requirements, and was practicing law without any valid law license in any state once she went on inactive status in Texas. If, in the alternative, her Harvard office was a bona fide office for the practice of law, rather than a place where she just “dabbled,” then she was practicing in Massachusetts without a Massachusetts license. Continue reading

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Just Stop It—You’re Embarrassing Yourselves

Oh yeah? Well this guy is a ROMNEY supporter!

As evidence grows that the keynote speaker at the Democratic National Convention may have been practicing law in Massachusetts—the state she seeks to represent in the U.S. Senate—without proper legal authorization, the description of the matter in the mainstream media, to the extent that it is mentioned at all, is that “the conservative blogosphere” is making the accusation. This ritual drives me to distraction, as readers of Ethics Alarms know. But if conservatives want to be given more respect when they uncover a legitimate story that the biased media will try to ignore or bury, they have to stop indulging themselves in utter garbage like this. Continue reading

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More Revelations Regarding Elizabeth Warren’s Alleged Unauthorized Practice of Law, and Why This Matters

Prof Jacobson, on his blog Legal Insurrection, is in line for an Ethics Hero award with his tenacity regarding Elizabeth Warren’s dubious qualifications to engage in the practice of law in  Massachusetts. The overwhelming reaction by his colleagues in legal academia, and mine in the legal ethics community, has been to airily dismiss his arguments as trivial, far-fetched and thinly disguised political warfare, since Jacobson is an unapologetic conservative blogger (and a distinguished one.) Meanwhile, the mainstream media has, I think it is fair to say, completely ignored the story.

Part of this is undoubtedly because of the ignorance of most journalists regarding the importance of the legal ethics rules in question. Part of it is probably due to the accurate assessment by editors and TV news producers that the average American’s brain would switch off right around the time the story mentions Massachusetts Rule of Professional Conduct Rule 5.5 Subsection (c), and will start wondering about how Blair from “The Facts of Life” is going to do on “Survivor.” And part of it, infuriatingly, is because most journalists are willing to forgo the ethical duties of their profession in order  to ensure that a Democrat wins back Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat, and character be damned.

The rude brush off Prof. Jacobson is getting in this wagon-circling exercise is wrong in every way, and does injustice to every person and institution involved, including the Massachusetts legal establishment, the legal profession, ethical lawyers (which, believe it or not, the vast majority of them are), Senator Brown, the U.S. Senate, Massachusetts voters, and the American public. Bar associations across the country regularly punish ordinary lawyers who practice law without proper authorization, and there is a reason: a lawyer who won’t or can’t obey the most basic requirement of the profession—be sure you are practicing law legally—should not be trusted to handle the important transactions and controversies of their clients’ lives. Continue reading

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