Category Archives: Law & Law Enforcement

More Bad Law Ethics: Integrity Test Coming For The Judiciary On Obamacare

"Dear Courts: We intend this mess to be a big, perfect, beautiful palace. Please let us know when its finished.       Your Friend, Congress"

“Dear Courts: We intend this mess to be a big, perfect, beautiful palace. Please let us know when its finished.
Your Friend, Congress.”

In a recent post, I explained how the incompetent drafting and reckless manner in which the Affordable Care Act was passed has corrupted every branch of the government as well as damaged our system and the public’s faith in it. Affordable Care Act supporters continue to desperately try to excuse, fix, and rationalize this disgracefully bad law. Next up is an integrity test for the judiciary, as the legal argument against the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit’s decision in Halbig v. Burwell becomes untenable.

If the two judges on the three judge panel were correct, and it appears they were, then a drafting miscalculation in the ACA has rendered the health care overhaul unworkable, meaning that it can’t be fixed, constitutionally at least, by Executive Orders, waivers, delays or lies, like so much else connected to the legislation. It will have to be addressed the old-fashioned—as in “according to the Constitution”—way, or not fixed at all. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Incompetent Elected Officials, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions

Ethics Quiz: Four Young Children Locked In A Hot Car

kid-in-hot-car

Mom and mom advocate Lenore Skenazy writes the Free Range Kids blog, which I have to remember to check out regularly. She is the source of today’s Ethics Quiz, which she obviously believes has an easy answer. We shall see.

Charnae Mosley, 27, was arrested by Atlanta police and charged with four counts of reckless conduct after leaving her four children, aged 6, 4, 2, and 1, inside of her SUV with the windows rolled up and the car locked.  It was 90 degrees in Atlanta that day. The children had been baking there for least 16 minutes while their mother did some shopping. A citizen noticed the children alone in the vehicle and reported the children abandoned.

Skenazy believes that the arrest is excessive—that the mother made a mistake, but that compassion is called for, not prosecution:

“[T]he mom needs to be told that cars heat up quickly and on a hot summer day this can, indeed, be dangerous. She does not need to be hauled off to jail and informed that even if she makes bail, she will not be allowed to have contact with her children…No one is suggesting that it is a good idea to keep kids in a hot, locked car with no a.c. and the windows up. But if that is what the mom did, how about showing some compassion for how hard it is to shop with four young kids, rather than making her life infinitely more difficult and despairing?The kids were fine. They look adorable and well cared for. Rather than criminalizing a bad parenting decision (if that’s what this was), how about telling the mom not to do it again?”

Do you agree with her? Here is your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the day:

Was it cruel, unfair, unsympathetic or unkind for Atlanta police to arrest Mosely for leaving her four young children locked in a hot car?

I am an admirer of Lenore Skenazy, but her pro-mother bias led her seriously astray this time. I think she is applying rationalizations, consequentialism and dubious, indeed dangerous reasoning to let this mother off a hook that she deserves to stay on. In her post, she even suggests that the car’s air conditioning was on, though there is no reason to believe that it was based on the reports. If the A-C was on, that changes the situation: I very much doubt that a mother would be charged with leaving four children in a locked, hot car if the car was not, in fact, hot. (One report states that the SUV windows were open, but that wouldn’t support the charges. If the windows were open, then Mosely left her children alone in public, which is a different form of child endangerment, but still dangerous. For the purpose of the quiz, I am assuming that the windows were shut, and that the air conditioning was not on. So does Skenazy.)

Let’s look at Lenore’s analysis errors:

  • She notes that the children were “fine.” What if they hadn’t been fine? That wouldn’t change what Mosely had done in any way, and what she did was irresponsible, dangerous and potentially deadly. Sixteen minutes, scientists tell us, is more than enough time for temperatures in a closed car to rise sufficiently high to cause heat stroke. Mosely, and obviously her children, were lucky—this is classic moral luck—and that shouldn’t be allowed to diminish the seriousness of what she did. (Aside: I just realized that to find that link, I made the same Google search that Justin Ross Harris made before leaving his infant son to die in his own hot vehicle, which has added to the circumstantial evidence causing him to be charged with murder.)
  •  The rationalizations peeking through Slenazy’s excuses for the mother’s conduct are quite a crowd. Along with #3. Consequentialism, or  “It Worked Out for the Best,” there is #19. The Perfection Diversion: “Nobody’s Perfect!” or “Everybody makes mistakes,” it’s twin, #20, The “Just one mistake!” Fantasy, #22. The Comparative Virtue Excuse: “There are worse things,” #25. The Coercion Myth: “I have no choice,”  #27. The Victim’s Distortion, #30. The Prospective Repeal: “It’s a bad law/stupid rule,” and #33. The Management Shrug: “Don’t sweat the small stuff!” There are probably some more, but that’s plenty.
  • If Skenazy believes that the “it was just a mistake” explanation should protect the mother from prosecution here, presumably she would make the same argument if all four kids (or just one) died. A lot of prosecutors feel the same way. I don’t.
  • If Mosley did this once, she may well have done it before, and is a risk to do it again. The best way to teach her not to do it again is, at very least, to scare her, inconvenience her, publicly embarrass her, and use the legal system to show how serious her wrongful conduct was, and how seriously society regards it. There is no guarantee that a lecture from a cop wouldn’t have just produced just an eye-rolling “Whatever…my kids were just fine, and I know how to take care of them” reaction, a repeat of the conduct, and eventually, a tragedy….followed, of course, by public accusations that the police were negligent and abandoned four children to the care of a dangerously reckless and incompetent mother.
  • I’m sorry, Lenore, but this-“How about showing some compassion for how hard it is to shop with four young kids, rather than making her life infinitely more difficult and despairing?” —makes me want to scream. How about not having more children that you can take care of safely? How about recognizing that your children’s safety comes first, with no exceptions, ever? How about meeting the minimum level of parenting competence, and not remaining ignorant about conduct that has been well publicized as cruel and potentially fatal to dogs, not to mention young children? In this case, compassion is a zero-sum game: compassion for the mother means showing none for her children.

When ethics fails, the law steps in. Too many children die every year from this tragic mistake that arises from distracted parenting, ignorance, and poorly aligned priorities. Prosecuting parents like this one for non-fatal incidents is exactly how the law serves as a societal tool to increase public awareness and encourage better conduct. It is in the best interests of Mosely’s four children as well as the children of every parent who reads about or hears her story to prosecute her to the full extent of the law.

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Pointer and Source: Free Range Kids

Facts: Yahoo!, WSB

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Filed under Childhood and children, Family, Law & Law Enforcement, Quizzes, The Internet, U.S. Society

Ethics Dunce: ESPN

"That will teach you to fudge the truth, Smith. Remember, you're a journalist!"

“That will teach you to remember to fudge the truth, Smith. Remember, you’re a journalist!”

Item: ESPN suspends Stephen A. Smith. Why? In response to the uproar over the NFL’s suspension of domestic abuser Ray Rice only two games for punching a woman’s lights out—the love of his life!—Smith uttered the blasphemy that some victims of domestic abuse share responsibility for their plight. Of course, he is 100% correct, and this something that many women must hear, learn, and act upon, or perhaps die. The proof: the precise case that prompted Smith’s comments! Janay Palmer, Rice’s punching bag, refused to file a complaint against him, and married the bastard a couple of months after he hauled her unconscious body out of a hotel elevator like a sack of potatoes, caught on camera.

If (I would say “when”) she gets clocked again, is she partially responsible? Absolutely. I also think she’s responsible in part for the injuries of every abused woman who follows her high-profile, irresponsible, violence-provoking (I use that unfortunately inexact word as Smith used it) example.

Smith’s suspension—for a week, almost as long as Rice— to mollify the feminist apologists for their violence enabling sisters, is craven and wrong.

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Facts: ESPN

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Jonathan Gruber, Bad Law Ethics, The Corruption Of Democracy, And The Affordable Care Act

"Oh what a tangled web we weave..." You know the rest of Sir Walter Scott's famous quote. So why doesn't the Obama Administration?

“Oh what a tangled web we weave…” You know the rest of Sir Walter Scott’s famous quote. So why doesn’t the Obama Administration?

There are important democratic lesson to be learned from the ongoing Obamacare Ethics Train Wreck, and we could discuss them objectively if the beleaguered supporters (enablers? excusers? rationalizers? propagandists?) of the law would just start accepting facts rather than resorting to dishonesty in all of its forms. The law is a mess. The law is a mess because its proponents in Congress passed it without reading it, because the public was deceived and misled in order to pass it, and because Congressional leaders and the President, in addition to not reading  major legislation that have massive consequences to the nation’s population, businesses, and budget, pushed it through without the usual two House scrutiny and amendment process.

Fixing the mess, or trying to fix it, has caused as many problems as the misbegotten law itself. (Please note that I am not discussing the intentions of the law, or what good things it might accomplish for Americans show needed help getting health insurance. That is beside the point. Good intentions don’t make a good law, or a bad law good. Look at the chaos at the border generated by the 2008 anti-human trafficking law, when it was mixed with irresponsible Democratic rhetoric and administration policies suggesting that illegal immigration restrictions were a thing of the past where children were concerned. Yes: many Americans have benefited from the Affordable Care Act. That fact alone, stated without reference to all the chaos, uncertainty, corruption, division and misrepresentations that accompany it, does not mean the law has been a success.)

The law depended on a penalty for not buying health insurance, a penalty that Democrats insisted was not a tax (so the President didn’t have to defend a large tax increase.) But a penalty for not doing what citizens should be free to do was unconstitutional, so Chief Justice John Roberts, in the spirit of avoiding government by judge, allowed the ACA to slip by in a 5-4 decision by declaring that the mandate was a tax, regardless of what it had been called to get it passed, and thus was constitutional after all.

Then the President began delaying deadlines and waiving provisions in the law that weren’t ready to go into effect or that were obviously going to cause more embarrassments. This was an abuse of power: Presidents can’t change laws by fiat. It established a dangerous precedent that undermines Constitutional democracy and the Separation of Powers. But it’s a bad law, and an unpopular law; the Republican House obviously won’t agree to the fixes needed without also doing a major overhaul, and this is, in the ironic words we keep hearing, most recently by the New York Times, Present Obama’s “most significant legislative achievement“—how sad is that?—and must be preserved at all costs.

At all costs. So far the costs of the ACA have been complete partisan polarization, the public’s realization that the President who pledged “transparency” will lie repeatedly to get his way, judicial rescue or dubious validity, and the defiance of the lawmaking procedures delineated by the Constitution. And the ethics train wreck goes on.

In Halbig v. Burwell, the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit ruled that those who purchase health insurance under the Affordable Care Act are only eligible for federal tax credits if they do so through an exchange established by a state.  (Another court ruled otherwise.) The court did this because this is what the miserably drafted, rushed, never-read by its own champions actually says, stating that tax credits are only available to those who purchase insurance in an “[e]xchange established by the State.” Obama-propping pundits, Democratic officials and the Administration’s spokespersons have attacked and indeed ridiculed the decision, saying that he court should have refused to enforce the actual wording of the law because it creates an absurd result. After all, the ACA’s stated goal is to expanding access to health insurance. Why would Congress try to limit it in this fashion—I mean, other than the fact that they had no idea what the law they were voting for actually had in it, just a general idea about what it was supposed to do? Continue reading

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Incredible: The Trayvon Martin-George Zimmerman Ethics Train Wreck Is Still Rolling!

trains_collision

I didn’t think I’d get a post up this morning—I am rushing to get ready to travel to NYC to speak about municipal lawyer ethics—but I made the mistake of turning on CNN.

Boy, the media will never give up a fake narrative, will it? There was CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, whom I have now down-graded to “Untrustworthy Hack,” enlightening us regarding the Detroit trial of Theodore Wafer, 55, a white man who is charged with  killing an unarmed 19-year-old Detroit African- American woman on his front porch by shooting through the door of his home. Says Toobin: “His defense is even weaker than Zimmerman’s, because…”

With that one dishonest, despicable. misleading and inflammatory word—-even— CNN’s legal analyst continued the myth that Zimmerman was wrongly acquitted of the charges against him. Toobin is lying, and knows he is lying (because you have to know you are lying for it to be a lie), because every half-educated lawyer who watched the trial knows that the prosecution didn’t prove its case, and couldn’t. Wafer’s defense can’t be even weaker than Zimmerman’s, because Zimmerman’s defense to the charge of murder was not weak in any way. All the evidence prevented supported Zimmerman’s defense, which was the doctrine of self-defense against a reasonable threat of bodily harm. (That Zimmerman caused the situation that led to the shooting did not undermine the strength of  that defense.) By suggesting that defense was weak, Toobin continues the manufactured, racially-divisive narrative that Zimmerman “stalked” Martin, that the killing was racially motivated, and that the jury was racially biased to a acquit him-every element of which is false based on the actual facts of the case. Naturally, the CNN hosts didn’t have the wit, knowledge or guts to stop Toobin.

Or fire him

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Filed under Ethics Train Wrecks, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Race

Ethics Hero: Columnist George Will

George WillI just watched George Will stun the Fox News Sunday panel by arguing against virtually all conservative pundits by insisting that the U.S. should welcome the hoard of children being apprehended at the border as they accept the current Administration’s open invitation to illegal immigrants.

“We ought to say to these children, ‘Welcome to America, you’re going to go to school and get a job and become Americans,’” Will said. “We have 3,141 counties in this country. That would be 20 per county. The idea that we can’t assimilate these eight-year-old criminals with their teddy bears is preposterous.”

I think the policy that Will is advocating is foolish, wrong, and will continue to incentivize illegal immigration.Nonetheless, in giving his contrarian opinion Will demonstrated personal integrity, courage, and showed those who accuse him of being a knee-jerk mouthpiece for Republicans and conservatives that they are wrong. His independence from the right-wing echo chamber also encourages viewers to start thinking for themselves.

I pledge to give a matching Ethics Hero designation to the first liberal pundit who argues that the human weapons in this unethical “think of the children!” assault on our laws and sovereignty should be shipped home, thus demonstrating similar integrity and independence from progressive talking points.

I’m waiting.

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Graphic: Mediaite

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Filed under Around the World, Character, Childhood and children, Citizenship, Ethics Heroes, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement

Comment of the Day: “The Ray Rice Affair: Defending Stephen Smith (and Blaming the Victims Of Domestic Abuse When They Behave Like Rice’s)”

 

"I'm going to slug you, and then you sing a lovely song about how you love me anyway, and it doesn't matter in the great scheme of things. OK?"

“I’m going to slug you, and then you sing a lovely song about how you love me anyway, and it doesn’t matter in the great scheme of things. OK?”

Steve-O-in-NJ sent in a thoughtful elaboration on the issue underlying my previous post regarding the obligation of abused women to end their relationship with abuser, and certainly not deepen it. He gets extra credit for quoting a lyric from “Carousel” in response to my post’s use of a similar themed lyric from “Show Boat.” (I wonder how many Broadway and popular songs are laments by abused women? The Rodgers and Hammerstein classic “Carousel’s” protagonist is an abuser: one woman he strikes says that the blow “felt like a kiss.” Gee, if he threw her down the stairs, would it feel like a hug?)

Here is Steve’s Comment of the Day on the post, The Ray Rice Affair: Defending Stephen Smith (and Blaming the Victims Of Domestic Abuse When They Behave Like Rice’s)

There’s an Italian proverb to the effect that no one else should enter into the discussions between husband and wife. I’m personally acquainted with one couple where things went bad after the wedding because the husband decided his wife was no longer so good-looking after she didn’t quite lose all the weight she gained during her first pregnancy. I’m also acquainted with another couple, mostly with the wife, in which the husband both verbally and physically abused the wife for months before the wedding, but she married him anyway, and now with the birth of their first child it appears that life is perfect.

For a long time prior to the second couple’s wedding I listened to the now-wife’s constant complaining and gave her exactly the advice set forth above. It fell on deaf ears, and I paid a draining emotional price. Because of that, when the wife in the first couple came to me in tears because the husband’s attention had turned to some hot number with tattoos and piercings, I turned her away and told her to work it out, I didn’t have the time or the inclination to listen to this nonsense again, when all it would probably result in was her going back with him after burdening me with her problems, leaving me the loser. I should also mention that the wife in the second relationship had been in relationships with at least two other men who beat her prior to the one she actually married.

It’s hard to say that there’s a war on women when some of the women actively walk into the line of fire and toss logic to the wind (“What’s the Use of Wondrin’?”) and burden society’s resources by welcoming their 911 rescue only to drop all charges once they see their men in cuffs, leaving the cops and prosecutors wondering why they even bothered.

It’s generally an accepted practice that if you call for the paramedics because you feel ill or are injured, but decline to go to the hospital, you have to sign a form generally called an AMA (against medical advice) form, absolving them from liability. I would suggest that a similar form be adopted for domestic violence situations, where, if the woman declines to press charges, she has to sign a form saying she is doing so, and perhaps a second form where she has to sign off if she declines to leave the relationship. Then the police keep these forms on file, and when they get another call from the same address about the same stuff, they can give it a lower priority or ignore it altogether in favor of pursuing the shots fired or burglary in progress calls. It isn’t society’s job to help those who refuse to help themselves, nor to be a maid or valet service cleaning up after messy relationships but never able to get at the source. Society has an obligation to properly husband its limited resources, and members of society have an obligation not to become a drain on those resources.

Continue reading

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The Ray Rice Affair: Defending Stephen Smith (and Blaming the Victims Of Domestic Abuse When They Behave Like Rice’s)

The love birds. Luckily, she can take a punch.

The love birds. Luckily, she can take a punch.

I came close to writing about the latest disturbing turn in the Ray Rice affair—the fact that the Baltimore Ravens star’s ugly domestic abuse, caught on a hotel elevator camera, was recently deemed to warrant only a two game suspension by the NFL. I think this is a fairly accurate representation of how seriously that league and a segment of the professional sports culture take the problem of domestic abuse—wait until you hear all the cheers for Rice in his first day back on the field—but I had already registered my disgust at Rice’s lack of sufficient punishment for this incident. Then ESPN analyst Stephen A. Smith was pilloried by female pundits for daring to suggest that the victims of domestic abuse sometimes share responsibility for what happens to them, and need to take action to prevent further beatings. ESPN colleague Michelle Beadle, noting that she was once in an abusive relationship, erupted in indignation, saying she “would never feel clean again” after taking reading Smith’s comments, and wrote,”I’m thinking about wearing a miniskirt this weekend…I’d hate to think what I’d be asking for by doing so… “Violence isn’t the victim’s issue. It’s the abuser’s. To insinuate otherwise is irresponsible and disgusting. Walk. Away.”

Of course,  other pundits, websites and blogs followed Beadle’s leaddid you know there’s a war on women?—because you just don’t dare get on the wrong side of this kind of issue. The problem is that in the context of the Ray Rice episode, Smith was making a valid point that is made too seldom because of The Beadle Rule, that women who are abused share no responsibility for their fate, and to even suggest otherwise is proof positive of misogyny. That is a politically correct lie, and Smith should not be attacked for telling the truth, albeit inarticulately. Continue reading

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Filed under Gender and Sex, Health and Medicine, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Romance and Relationships, Sports, U.S. Society

The Essence Of Utilitarianism: 9 Out Of 10 Non-Lawyers Will Hate This, But It Is Ethical And Necessary

Wait, this doesn't seem proper at all...

Wait, this doesn’t seem proper at all…

In the case of King v McCree, the Sixth Circuit has handed down a decision that affirms the principle of judicial immunity.  The facts are reminiscent of the Gilbert and Sullivan one-act, “Trial by Jury.”

Judge Wade McCree,  presiding over a felony child – support case, conducted a secret sexual relationship with the woman seeking support from the defendant, King. The Michigan Supreme Court both removed Judge McCree from his judgeship and prospectively suspended him without pay for six years just in case Michigan voters—and voters have been known to do such stupid things–re-elect  him if he runs for judge again in November 2014.

The defendant sued the ex-judge, claiming that the judge’s obvious conflict of interest–playing bedroom bingo with the complaining witness while her case was being adjudicated in his court— violated King’s right to due process of law. The district court ruled that Judge McCree was immune from such lawsuits under the doctrine of judicial immunity, and the Sixth Circuit agreed. Continue reading

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Musings On The Clarence Thomas Affair and Insideous, Unavoidable, Rationalization Eleven

If you are good enough and valuable enough, do you deserve one of these?

If you are good enough and valuable enough, do you deserve one of these?

A recent—and off-topic—comment caused me to begin thinking about “The King’s Pass,” #11 on the Ethics Alarms Rationalization hit parade,and perhaps the most perplexing of them all. The commenter referenced the 2010 discovery that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas had inexplicably neglected to mention his activist wife’s annual income on his annual financial disclosure filings, meaning that he had filed a false affidavit and violated the law. Thomas claimed that he had made a careless mistake—for five years—and the matter was allowed to drop except for the angry agitating of the Anti-Clarence Thomas Furies, who are constantly searching for any way to get a conservative black justice off the Supreme Court short of assassination.

The episode had left a bad taste in my mouth, and I was happy to be reminded of it, bad mouth tastes being essential to triggering ethics alarms. I went back to read my post on the matter, and sure enough, I had followed the principle of rejecting The King’s Pass, and asserted that Thomas should be punished appropriately and formally…but that really ducked the question. Lawyers have lost their licenses to practice for single episodes of swearing to false information when it was far more obvious that a mistake had been made than in Thomas’s case, as when a hapless Maryland lawyer carelessly signed a legal document that had misrecorded  his address. The logic of this no-tolerance ruling was that a lawyer, above all people, should never swear to a falsehood, and that doing so, even once, was a serious breach of duty calling into question his fitness to practice law. I think the penalty for this particular act was excessive—it is cited locally as a cautionary tale—but I agree with its underlying principle, which should apply with even more vigor when the lawyer in question is a judge, and not merely a judge, but a Supreme Court Justice.
Continue reading

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