Category Archives: Law & Law Enforcement

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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Filed under Business & Commercial, Character, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, U.S. Society

Flunking Responsibility, Honesty, Common Sense and Ethics: Gov. Deval Patrick, Sen. Patrick Leahy, Daily Kos, and Anyone Else Who Repeats This Idiotic Analogy

Deval Patrick

I thought I might run an ethics quiz asking whether this current and mind-bogglingly stupid argument that keeps popping up from my sentiment-addled Facebook friends is more unethical than the pro-Hamas hashtags being appended to twitter comments by the “Think of the children!” saps led by celebrities like Jon Stewart, Selena Gomez, and John Cusack. Pondering on it, however, I realized that as ethically misguided as Stewart at al. are, the above quote and its ilk are worse….especially since state governors and U.S. Senators have more credibility than comedians and Disney pop tarts. Not that they should, mind you.

If I really have to make a detailed argument explaining why Deval’s quote and  Leahy’s ( “Think of all those Jews that went to the ovens because we forgot our principles. Let’s not turn our backs now.”) are unforgivably irresponsible, we are just as dim-witted as those demagogues (or, more likely, as dim-witted as they hope and think we are.) The statements are no more nor less than an invitation to every parent of every child in every poor, war-torn, politically foul, culturally poisoned, dangerous, corrupt nation in the world to somehow get them to the U.S. border, paying shady and often treacherous agents to do so, because the United States will not “turn its back,” and turn them back. The question isn’t whether this is a legitimate, responsible or sane position worthy of debate and serious consideration: of course it isn’t. The question is how anyone can think it is. Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Childhood and children, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, History, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Quotes, The Internet

Ethics Quiz: Blaming the Messenger

"Hey, I just deliver the boxcar contents to someplace called "Aushwitz." It's not my business what's in them..."

“Hey, I just deliver the boxcar contents to someplace called “Aushwitz.” It’s not my business what’s in them…”

In 2013, the United Parcel Service Inc  agreed to forfeit $40 million in fees that it had received from illegal internet pharmacies shipping bootleg prescription drugs using UPS services, in exchange for a non-prosecution agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice. UPS also agreed to put policies and procedures in place to prevent illegal online pharmacies from distributing drugs through its shipping services in the future. Naturally, the faux pharmacies moved over to FedEx, and when that shipping service refused to cut a similar deal with DOJ under threat of prosecution, the government persuaded a Federal grand jury to indict the company for delivering drugs associated with internet pharmacies, and thus being a willing party to a criminal enterprise.

Now many are cheering FedEx as, in essence, an ethics hero for refusing to knuckle under to the government and accept responsibility where it has none. There are two arguments against the government’s prosecution of FedEx. One is that its natural result would be to require shipping companies to open every parcel and be certain that nothing illegal is inside. The other is that trying to eradicate crime and other misconduct by creating secondary service liability is inherently unjust. By pressuring credit card companies  to refuse payments to companies the government regards as breaking the law, for example, alleged illegal enterprises can be put out of business without the government having to meet its burden of proof to show they really are breaking the law. If the government can intimidate carrying companies into refusing the business of illegal pharmacies, then the illegal pharmacies never have to be prosecuted. There is a third argument, but it is irrelevant: that the government shouldn’t be prosecuting the crime of providing prescription drugs over the internet at all.  This is an entirely different and separate issue: The point is that the shipments are illegal now, and FedEx is facilitating them.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz to begin what I sense will be a busy ethics week is…

Is FedEx an Ethics Hero?

Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Citizenship, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Law & Law Enforcement, Rights, The Internet

Now THIS Is An Unprofessional Actor

Even John would have a problem with this actor's "method"...

Even John would have a problem with this actor’s “method”…

The 8th Circuit has ruled that actor Paul Doering was justly sentenced for his conduct during a 2011 theatrical event in which he was performing. What did he do?

For a Western-themed charity event in Hill City, South Dakota,  Doering portrayed an outlaw in a shootout.Stage actors using guns shoot blanks, of course. For some reason—extreme method acting? Bad reviews? That ineffable something that makes a star?—Doering used live rounds, real bullets, wounding three spectators.

And they say the theater is dull.

You can read about the case here; that’s of secondary interest. What I find fascinating is that this might be the most unethical performance by an actor in a theatrical performance ever.

John Wilkes Booth doesn’t qualify: he wasn’t in the cast when he shot Lincoln during “Our American Cousin.” I’m pretty sure he would have found Doering thoroughly unprofessional.

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions

Ethics Observations On The Latrez Cummings Sentence

"I understand, son. We've all been at that awkward, "just want to beat the old white guy to death" age...."

“I understand, son. We’ve all been at that awkward, “just want to beat the old white guy to death” age….”

Detroit Third Judicial Circuit Judge James Callahan sentenced 19-year-old gang member Latrez Cummings to six months in jail for his participation in the mob beating of Steve Utash, a 54-year-old white man who jumped out of his car to assist a 10-year-old African-American boy after his pick-up truck hit the child. Cummings and at least 20 others on the scene attacked Utash and beat him severely, leaving him with permanent brain damage.

Judge Callahan told Cummings that the lack of a father was what led him to his current plight. “That’s all you have needed in your life, a father, someone to discipline you, someone to beat the hell out of you when you made a mistake,” Callahan lectured Cummings. “Without the guidance of a father, being 19 years of age, I can understand how some of these problems existed in the past.” The judge added that Cummings has suffered without “somebody to beat the hell out of you when you made a mistake.”  With the further rationalization, “We’ve all been 19 years of age, ” Callahan handed down the six month sentence, to be followed by probation.

The prosecutor, to her credit, went nuts. Said Assistant Wayne County Prosecutor Lisa Lindsey: Continue reading

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Filed under Childhood and children, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Race

First Nomination For “The Donald Sterling Award Award”: The American Bar Association

Cracked trophy

It’s time to launch  a new dubious honor here at Ethics Alarms: The Donald Sterling Award Award.

The DSAA gets its name from the embarrassing “Man of the Year” award that the San Diego NAACP was preparing to bestow on Donald Sterling shortly before his racially offensive comments to his mistress were recorded and leaked to the news media. Sterling had already engaged in conduct that seemed to make  NAACP recognition both unlikely and ill-advised, so his award, which the organization retracted, is the perfect model to emulate for future organizations determined to undermine their values and objectives by choosing inappropriate honorees.

And the first nomination for the The Donald Sterling Award Award is The American Bar Association, for its decision to give its 2014 Robert J. Kutak Award to New England Law/ Boston dean John F. O’Brien.  The award is given annually “to an individual who has contributed significantly toward increased cooperation among legal education, the practicing bar, and the judiciary.”

Well, maybe O’Brien technically deserves that award, but then Sterling had given a lot of money to local projects benefiting African-American kids in San Diego, too.  The problem is that O’Brien could serve as the poster boy for the ugly underbelly of legal education and its disconnect to the current economics of the legal profession. In 2013, he gave his school unwanted publicity when it was revealed that he earned a salary of $867,000, among the very highest law dean salaries in the country, while  low-ranked New England Law/ Boston charged $40,904 for yearly tuition. Before considering lowering his own compensation, he started cutting faculty positions, until he finally relented and took a pay cut to a paltry $650,000 a year. I know, it’s less than three Hillary Clinton speeches. But the going rate for deans at the top law schools has been estimated to be “only” $450,000, and O’Brien runs a school that is the opposite of “top.” Continue reading

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Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Law & Law Enforcement

Smoking Gun Headline Of The Month: The Washington Post

Smoking-GunThe headline, on a story appearing on page A4 of today’s Washington Post: “Obama’s Critics Have Not Visited The Border Recently.” (Note: the online version headline is a little different.)

How odd, and how revealing. Apparently White House and Democratic talking points will now be published in headline typeface by D.C.’s iconic, once trusted, newspaper. What? Continue reading

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Filed under Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership

Ethics Trainwreck At The Border

border-warehousing-children-bbtx

Eight ethics observations on the army of child illegals clogging the Mexican border:

1. I predicted this would happen four years ago, and anyone who was paying attention should have been able to as well. Both the actions of President Obama, in essentially enacting the unethical “Dream Act” by fiat, and the rhetoric surrounding the “Dream Act” itself, constituted a national invitation to parents to send their children to the border. A nation cannot provide incentives to break the law, celebrate those who break it, and then credibly tell us that they are dismayed when a flood of law-breakers appear.

2. Even more influential in attracting desperate children to the border has been the loud, reckless and irresponsible messages coming from all quarters that the U.S. doesn’t regard law-breaking as anything but admirable and forgivable when children are involved. California, to the applause of lawyers and most of my colleagues in the legal ethics establishment, has allowed an illegal immigrant, brought here as a child, to practice law. Jeb Bush, proving himself to be muddle-headed, a rank sentimentalist, or a coward, pronounced illegal immigration with children as “an act of love.” Come on—the United States of America isn’t going to make love illegal, is it? Didn’t we just go through this with gay marriage? Democrats and illegal immigration advocates use the term “comprehensive immigration reform” as a code for “open borders,” and the code has been cracked in South America. Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Childhood and children, Citizenship, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Family, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, U.S. Society

Unethical Political Ad Of The Month: The Freedom From Religion Foundation

FFRF

If it accomplished nothing else, the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision is doing a dandy job of flushing out the bigots. First it was the feminists blaming the decision on the all-male majority…because, as we all know, only women can balance ethical and legal conflicts fairly and intelligently, and they are incapable of bias. This line of attack is gender bigotry, acceptable because, well, just because. Then Harry Reid, leader of the Senate majority, condemned the five justices whose analysis prevailed as white males, adding racial bias to the mix. Also stupidity, of course, since last I looked, Justice Thomas was still black. Then again, to hear Harry and his friends tell it, being a conservative and not folding up like a deck chair any time women or a minority group complains means that you must be white, meaning that you must be bigoted against women. That’s just what whites are like. And males. Says white male Harry Reid.

It’s a strange, strange world we live in, no doubt about that.

Now comes the Freedom From Religion Foundation with an ad published in the New York Times blaming the decision on the fact that the five justices in the majority were male and Roman Catholic. Anti-Catholic bigotry! I confess, I didn’t know what religion the justices were, because I don’t care. Do you? John Kerry is a Roman Catholic; so is Joe Biden. It never occurred to me to attribute their various decisions and policy determinations to their religion, or to presume that anyone’s religion is fair game for criticism. Ah, but this is blood politics as defined by today’s culture. The right people can use bigotry against deserving targets….you know. Conservatives. Continue reading

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Filed under Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Race, Religion and Philosophy