Category Archives: Citizenship

Jury Nullification Ethics: Denver’s District Attorney Tries To Make It Illegal To Teach Jurors About The Power Of Juries

ZengerIs it just me, or does it seem to everyone as if  a lot of public officials have been trying to shrink the First Amendment lately?

Jury nullification is the doctrine, rich in jurisprudential and American history, that declares that juries have the power and the right to reject what they believe are either unjust criminal laws or unjust prosecutions, and acquit defendants who may have been proven guilty on the evidence, essentially nullifying the law by refusing to enforce it . They definitely have that power: once a citizen is declared not guilty, that citizen cannot be tried again. The dilemma is that neither judges nor lawyers are permitted to let juries know about nullification, since nullification defies the law. A defense lawyer mentioning it in a closing argument risks a mistrial, and bar sanctions. In most jurisdictions, judges instruct jurors that it is their duty to apply the law as it is written whether they agree with the law or not. In only a few states are jurors expressly permitted to judge both the facts and the law of the case. In 2012, New Hampshire passed a unique law explicitly allowing defense attorneys to inform juries about jury nullification.

In Denver this week, Mark Iannicelli, 56, set up a small booth with a sign that said “Juror Info” in front of the city’s courthouse. The Denver District Attorney’s Office has charged him with eight counts of jury tampering, because Iannicelli used that booth to hand out flyers about jurors’ rights to practice jury nullification to jury pool members. Yes, he has been charged with tampering with juries that aren’t even juries yet. Continue reading

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Filed under Citizenship, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, History, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Rights

When Law Co-Opts Ethics: Florida’s Unconstitutional Pro-Gun Doctor Gag Law Upheld

Unbelievable!

“See doc? That’s what you get for shooting your mouth off! Get it?”

A federal appeals court this week upheld an NRA-crafted Florida law making it illegal for doctors to ask questions and record information about a patient’s gun ownership. Medical groups had challenged the law, arguing that it infringed on doctors’ First Amendment rights.

Which it does. The law is an outrageous incursion on free speech in order to protect gun owners from unwelcome anti-gun lobbying by their physicians.

Among other restrictions, the law says doctors must refrain from asking about gun ownership by patients or family members unless the they believe in “good faith” that the information is relevant to medical care or safety. It also prevent doctors from discriminating against patients or “harassing” them because of owning firearms, which presumably means that it is illegal for a doctor to tell a patient, “You’re too clumsy to own a gun, and if you blow your damn face off, don’t come crying to me.”

“The purpose of the act, as we read it, is not to protect patient privacy by shielding patients from any and all discussion about firearms with their physicians; the act merely requires physicians to refrain from broaching a concededly sensitive topic when they lack any good-faith belief that such information is relevant to the medical care or safety of their patients or others,” said the 2-1 majority opinion, written by Judge Gerald Tjoflat and joined by Judge L. Scott Coogler.

Dissenting Judge Charles Wilson argued that the law violates the First Amendment rights of physicians:

“Simply put, the act is a gag order that prevents doctors from even asking the first question in a conversation about firearms. The act prohibits or significantly chills doctors from expressing their views and providing information to patients about one topic and one topic only, firearms.”

I don’t see how anyone can dispute that analysis. I especially don’t see how the other two judges dispute it.

Doctors shouldn’t use their position of influence to try to impose their political, social and life-style views on patients. If the American Medical Association wants to declare that to be an unethical abuse of a doctor’s status and a patient’s trust, I wouldn’t complain. The law, however, has no more business telling doctors that they can’t advise their patients that owning guns may be bad for their health or their neighbor’s health than it has making it illegal for doctors to tell patients that Donald Trump is just what this country needs in the White House. What’s next, telling dentists that they can’t tell you about their brilliant kids while they’re poking around your mouth?

The state doesn’t have to get involved in what patients and doctors talk about, shouldn’t, and mustn’t. This is a job for ethics, not law. If a doctor won’t stop telling you that the Second Amendment should be repealed, the remedy is easy: tell him to shut up, or you’ll find a new doctor.

Or just shoot him.

Kidding.

_____________________
Pointer: Legal Ethics Forum

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Filed under Citizenship, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions, Rights

Incompetent Elected Official of The Month: Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal

You're supposed to know all this BEFORE you run for President, Bobby...or Governor, for that matters.

You’re supposed to know all this BEFORE you run for President, Bobby…or Governor, for that matter.

The Westboro Baptist Church has threatened to picket the funerals of the victims of the Lafayette theater shooting.

Governor Jindal, an alleged Presidential candidate, thinks that the First Amendment doesn’t apply to them, despite a well-publicized Supreme Court decision to the contrary. “If they come here to Louisiana, if they try to disrupt this funeral, we’re gonna lock them up,” Jindal said on “Face the Nation.”. “We won’t abide by that here…Let these families grieve in peace.”

Hmmmm. Appealing to ignorant voters. Grandstanding. Pandering. Abuse of power.  Talking as if the Constitution doesn’t exist. Threatening to break the law. Sounding like an idiot blowhard.

Just the guy to give Donald Trump a run for his money.

 

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Of Course Sandra Bland Shared Responsibility For What Happened To Her, And Other Observations On The Bland Tragedy

Let us stipulate that trooper Brian Encina behaved unprofessionally and atrociously by any standard in his handling of the vehicle stop of Sandra Bland in Prairie View, Texas, on July 10, setting into motion a series of events that led to Bland’s death by apparent suicide in a jail cell three days later. The police work shown by the dashcam video is unforgivable, and could be used in officer trainings on how not to handle a traffic stop.

That does not make him responsible for Bland’s death, however. He was not responsible for an incompetent bail system that had this woman in jail for three days, apparently because it was a weekend, and if she did take her own life (agreed: since her family has no reason to trust authorities at this point, nothing is likely to convince them of that no matter what the evidence, and also agreed, the suicide verdict looks mighty shaky at this point), that is, by law and logic, an intervening cause that exonerate the officer in Bland’s death. Activists will make the obvious Freddie Gray comparisons, but in this case there is no reason to believe that the officer, no matter how wrongful his conduct, either intended or contributed to her death. At worst, Encina is guilty of bad policing and using excessive force. This is not the Freddie Gray case, unless there was a dark conspiracy of frightening proportions.

Once again, however, a black citizen is dead after a confrontation with a white cop. For many pundits, civil rights advocates and black racists as well as irresponsible elected officials, that’s evidence enough that this was a racial incident. It isn’t evidence enough, however. The racial identities of the participants do not mean race was a factor, and absent some other facts that we have not learned about yet, any effort to suggest otherwise is nothing but the Zimmerman con, assuming racism unjustly to advance a political agenda. Let’s see if the Justice Department launches a civil rights investigation this time….again, assuming nothing more suspicious turns up.  That would be the smoking gun evidence of this DOJ’s bias. I wouldn’t bet against it happening. Continue reading

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Professor Schwitzgebel Concludes That Ethicists Aren’t Very Ethical—Luckily, According To Him I’m Not An Ethicist, So I Don’t Take It Personally

Greek phil

Eric Schwitzgebel is professor of philosophy at University of California, Riverside, as well as an author and a blogger. His essay “Cheeseburger Ethics” immediately caught my attention, as his thesis is one that I have embraced myself, occasionally here: ethicists are not especially ethical.

The essay is thought-provoking. He’s a philosophy professor and an academic, so naturally he views his own, isolated, rarified species of ethicist as the only kind. In announcing the results of his “series of empirical  studies” on the ethics of ethicists, Professor Schwitzgebel announces, “…by ‘ethicist’, I mean a professor of philosophy who specialises in teaching and researching ethics.” Got it, prof. I, in contrast, am the kind of ethicist typically denounced on other blogs as a “self-proclaimed” I don’t regard myself as an academic, my degrees are in American government and law, and my specialty is leadership and the role of character in developing it. My job isn’t to teach half-interested students about the abstract thoughts of dead Greeks and Germans; my job is to make professionals, elected officials and others understand what being ethical in their jobs and life means, how to distinguish wrong from right, and how to use proven tools  to solve difficult ethical problems they will face in the real world. I get paid for it too.

My audiences hate ethics, usually because of the people who Prof. Schwitzgebel has decided are the “real” ethicists. They have made ethics obscure, abstract and gnaw-off-your-oot boring for centuries, with the result that the mere word “ethics” sends the average American into a snooze. I have had corporate clients ask me to teach ethics without using the word “ethics.” The most common evaluation I read are from participants who write that they dreaded my seminar and were shocked that they were engaged, interested, entertained, amused…and learned something useful and occasionally inspiring.

Is it ethical to reduce the public’s interest in and respect for the very subject—a vital one– you have chosen to specialize in and teach, often because you have lousy speaking and teaching skills? Why yes, I’d call that very unethical. So I agree with Schwitzgebel’s assessment of his colleagues. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Citizenship, Education, Etiquette and manners, Health and Medicine, Philanthropy, Non-Profits and Charity, Professions, Religion and Philosophy, Research and Scholarship

Ethics Observations On Cincinnati’s Fountain Square Incident And Its Aftermath

At a Fourth of July concert in Cincinnati, police had to fight their way through a mob to rescue a white male who had been nearly beaten to death as the crowd made up primarily of African Americans and Hispanic-Americans mocked him. Here is a video of the scene, if it is still up: YouTube has removed it more than once.

Observations:

1. What kind of people act like this? How do they get this way?

2. There is a controversy over whether the incident should be investigated as a hate crime. Idiocy. Madness. The discussion itself shows how silly the entire hate crime concept is. Would a group of whites mocking a bleeding white man be any less offensive to community values than a group of blacks doing so?

3. It is especially silly, not to mention offensive, when the government applies the law in a biased fashion—but then, that was always its intent.  Here is law professor Jonathan Turley tripping over his metaphorical tongue to avoid stating the obvious:

“It is not clear if there was a racial component to the crime and I would not immediately expect a hate crime investigation in such a case. Various blogs however are arguing that the Administration and local officials often immediately pledge to pursue such cases involving a black victim and white officers or assailants as a possible hate crime. I have tended to caution that such early framing of cases can have a distortive or dysfunctional impact absent clear evidence of a racial motivation. For example, while some in this crowd may have been celebrating the fact that the victim was white, it does not mean that the original attack was racially motivated.”

Oh, come on, professor. Stop spinning. The Obama Administration, the Justice Department and local officials in many cities have displayed a hair-trigger readiness to automatically consider any incident a suspected “hate crime” where a white police officer is involved in harming a black victim, absent taunting, absent the kind of revolting evidence present in this case. It isn’t “early framing,” it is racial politics and pandering to the mob and the media. On what basis were George Zimmerman and Darren Wilson subjected to federal hate crime investigations, if this video won’t prompt one? Continue reading

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Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Atlantic, Racist Hate….and The Dick Van Dyke Show

Forget what your dad is telling you, kid: listen to Buddy.

Forget what your dad is telling you, kid: listen to Buddy.

Question: If Ta-Nehisi Coates’ racist and hateful, anti-white, anti-US essay for The Atlantic is respectable public discourse, why isn’t Dylan Roof’s manifesto?

I think it is fair to that we know what the standards, or rather double standards, are in Barack Obama’s America. We have repeatedly been told by progressive activists that “hate speech” either isn’t or shouldn’t be protected by the Constitution, but the essay “Letter to My Son” by a regular Atlantic contributor, published by the magazine as literature, shows that “hate speech” is a narrower category in the progressive universe than its catchy name would suggest. Pompous, pretentious, labored, and smug anti-white, anti-American speech isn’t hate, apparently, but rather wisdom.

I just want to know what the rules are now.

Blogger/law professor Ann Althouse threw a link to the long piece by Coates to her readers without comment, as is often her technique. Actually, she highlighted a comment to the essay by one of the readers of Metafilter, who gushed,

I sat in the parking lot of my gym for 30 minutes reading that amazing, amazing piece. I’m rendered inarticulate by its power, by its purpose, by how fucking important it is and how I wish every person in this country would read it and really hear what he’s saying. And, just, goddamn. It’s so good. It references MLK in the same breath as Wu-Tang, and it’s all woven together so fucking effortlessly, but the references aren’t winky nods to pop culture, they’re buttressing an argument that is already so strong and undeniable and.

Althouse left off the last line, which was…

God. I know this sounds hyperbolic, but fucking hell, I hope this letter is taught in civics classes and literature classes for decades to come.

The Professor is correct: the positive reactions to this monstrosity are at least as fascinating as the essay itself. Read it all the way through, if you can. I found the long article extremely hard to get through. The prose is the sort of over-worked, straining-to-be-poetic slog that black revolutionaries and poets of the Sixties used to excel at, often from prison; Eddie Murphy did some hilarious imitations of them. Style and pretentiousness aside, the essay is tragic, frustrating and deeply sad: if this or anything even close to this is a common state of mind among African Americans, then it is small wonder progress in U.S. race relations is regressing. Continue reading

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