Category Archives: Law & Law Enforcement

A Remorseful Prosecutor Apologizes

Above: Glenn Ford Today. L-Ford in 1983 R-The apologetic prosecutor

Above: Glenn Ford Today. L-Ford in 1983 R-The apologetic prosecutor

Now THIS is a #1 Level apology on the Ethics Alarms Apology Scale.

It’s more than an apology, really: it approaches self-flagellation. The tragic aspect of the confession and apology of former prosecutor  A.M. “Marty” Stroud III,  is that no one can really apologize for what he did, not after 30 years. For Stroud was the lead prosecutor in the December 1984 first-degree murder trial of Glenn Ford, who was convicted and sentenced to death for murdering Isadore Rozeman. Ford was innocent, and was finally released a year ago. His is a classic, horror story of justice derailed. Continue reading

31 Comments

Filed under Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions

Ethical! Funny! But Stupid: Kentucky’s Risible Same-Sex Marriage Ban Defense.

laughing Scotus

Supreme Court justices deserve to have a good laugh now and then.

Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee are all defending their legislative bans on gay marriage in briefs before the U. S. Supreme Court. Only one of their legal teams came up with—-or had the guts to include—the novel argument contained in the Bluegrass State’s brief, which explains why a ban on gay marriage does not “discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation”:

Kentucky’s marriage laws treat homosexuals and heterosexuals the same and are facially neutral. Men and women, whether heterosexual or homosexual, are free to marry persons of the opposite sex under Kentucky law, and men and women, whether heterosexual or homosexual, cannot marry persons of the same sex under Kentucky law.

This is in the amusing category of arguments that make technical sense in legal terms—well yes, come to think of it, if you look at it that way, you’ve defined discrimination right out of the case!— but no sense whatever in the real world. Gays can’t marry their intended life partner but heterosexuals can; that’s obviously unequal treatment and constitutes discrimination. The defense deceitfully pretends that the whole reason for the emotional controversy doesn’t exist: “Love? What’s that? We know nothing of this thing you call love!”

These come up all the time when legal teams are brainstorming which theories to pursue in an appellate brief, and are virtually always discarded after some general amusement and admiration for the Clintonian who devised it. There is nothing unethical about including a dubious argument along with better ones in a brief, even a Supreme Court brief: consider the position that carried the day in the Obamacare case, when Chief Justice Roberts adopted a rationale for the individual mandate that the Obama Administration had repeatedly rejected and denied. The problem is that such an off-the-wall argument is risky:

1. It pulls time, attention and consideration from more promising arguments.

2. It makes the client look foolish or unserious to the public.

3.  Worse, it might make the client look foolish to the justices.

4. Some justice might react to it as an insult to his or her intelligence.

More than all of that, however,the argument is not going to work. Can you imagine what the reaction would be if the Supreme Court endorsed gay marriage bans relying on that logic? The argument is a non-starter, so including it in the brief sends a loud and clear message that no appellate lawyer ever wants a judge to hear:

“We got nothin’.”

 

17 Comments

Filed under Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Humor and Satire, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions, Rights

Jerks, Liars, Hypocrites, Fools and Hoosiers: 10 Ethics Observations On Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act Controversy

Indiana5

1. The law was passed to make discrimination against gays, trans individuals and especially same-sex couples seeking marriage if not easier, to at least seem easier. Anyone claiming otherwise is lying, or being intentionally obtuse. Would Indiana be passing this law without the Hobby Lobby decision or the various court rulings requiring photographers, bakers, and other businesses to provide the same products and services to gay couples that they do to heterosexuals? Yes, you say? Tell me another.

As GLAAD alertly pointed out, Governor Pence was surrounded by anti-gay activists when he signed the bill:

GLAAD Pence

This is res ipsa loquitur, and doesn’t speak well for the Governor’s candor or intelligence.

2. Context matters. The original laws of this sort (the Federal law signed by President Clinton is also called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act) were part of the left’s long range pro-drug strategy, like medical marijuana. It was essentially a hippie law designed to create a slippery slope to recreational drug legalization by allowing fringe religious groups, specifically Native American tribes, to use peyote in tribal ceremonies. Now you understand why Clinton signed the bill.

Oops. Excuse me if I enjoy the spectacle of the clever members of the Church of the Perpetually Stoned—including the ACLU, which once supported such laws as long as they pointed the way to their young lawyers being able to have their Saturday night joints legally but now opposes them—being hoisted on their own petard.

“When the federal government adopted a religious protection act in 1993, same-sex marriage was not on the horizon,” whines the New York Times. Well, competent, well-considered, properly drafted, responsibly passed laws don’t suddenly become unbearable, then fine, then unbearable again with every shift of the cultural winds. The intent of the law was never to protect mainstream religions, but cloaked itself in language that did. It backfired.

3. That being stipulated, the good states need to read their own laws before they start grandstanding. Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy just announced on Twitter that he plans to sign an executive order banning state travel to Indiana in response to its Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Yet Connecticut, hippie enclave and bedroom community of rich, white, liberal New Yorkers that it is, happily jumped on the religious freedom train with a law of its own, one that, as the Federalist points out, makes discrimination on the basis of religion easier than the Hoosier version, which only prohibits the government from substantially burdening religion. Connecticut’s law does not include the word “substantially,” meaning that all government-enacted burdens on religion are theoretically illegal.

I wonder how Malloy is going to ban government travel to Connecticut? Is the theory that the same law can be good when liberal states pass it and evil when those bad conservative states pass it? It is more likely that the governor hasn’t looked at his own state’s law.

4. The hysteria being stirred up over the supposed horribles Indiana’s law will lead to is irresponsible. Jonathan Adler explains on The Volokh Conspiracy: Continue reading

69 Comments

Filed under Business & Commercial, Citizenship, Etiquette and manners, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Religion and Philosophy, Rights, U.S. Society

Sliding UP The Slippery Slope: NO To Forced Sterilization, And A Belated NO To Forced Vasectomies Too

"OK, now this is entirely your free choice..."

“OK, now this is entirely your free choice…”

This has turned into Revisiting Old Posts Day on Ethics Alarms.

Last July, I posted an Ethics Quiz regarding a Virginia judge’s sentence offering a profligate and irresponsible serial father to choice between an extra four years in jail and a vasectomy at his own expense. After asking readers whether they thought the sentence was ethical, especially in light of the state’s ugly history of forced sterilizations, I demurred, writing,

I am not ready to make a call on this one. Since neglected children often become the responsibility of taxpayers, the argument that the state has no legitimate interest in regulating profligate reproduction by irresponsible parents falls flat. Is taking away someone’s ability to have more children (after seven) really a greater intrusion on his freedom than locking him up? Yet this sentence seems to cross lines that government should cross with caution, if at all. I’m not sorry that Herald won’t be inflicting more of his line on us. I am uneasy, however, with the way this result came about.

I am now ready to make an ethics call in the quiz in light of this news report: Continue reading

20 Comments

Filed under Childhood and children, Citizenship, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Law & Law Enforcement, Quizzes, Rights, U.S. Society

Post “Hands Up!” Race-Baiting Accountability Sagas: Antonio French and Taraji P. Henson

French

Thanks to three related factors…

1. The uncritical acceptance of Dorian Johnson’s false characterization of Mike Brown’s shooting by Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson, leading to a society-wide condemnation not only of Wilson but police departments across the country and white Americans as racially hostile to young black men, and

2. The fact that police officers have been shooting and killing an awful lot of unarmed black men, young or not, and

3. Inflammatory and irresponsible rhetoric from national and local leaders and elected officials

….we are in a dangerously unstable environment of virulent racial distrust, where the police are regarded as immediately suspect and placed in a defensive posture with a presumption of racism and excessive violence virtually any time an African American is the object of police action, regardless of the circumstances or justification. This is being exploited by those arrested, their families, civil rights activists, elected officials, protest organizers and the news media.

Here are two ugly sagas that illustrate the problem: Continue reading

9 Comments

Filed under Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Family, Incompetent Elected Officials, Law & Law Enforcement

Advocacy Ethics And Larry Tribe’s “Betrayal”

Bought, believed, or both?

Bought, believed, or both?

One of my favorite topics here, the public’s (and news media’s) misunderstanding of legal ethics and the function of lawyers, recently broke into the news with a crash as progressives saw Barack Obama’s constitutional law professor at Harvard and liberal icon Lawrence Tribe go before Congress and testified against the President’s climate change initiative, the Clean Power Plan, saying that it was the equivalent of “burning the Constitution.” This has been called every name in the book by progressives, from betrayal to greed to dishonesty.

“Laurence Tribe must not have been sworn in over a Bible today before testifying before Congress, because if he had been, that Bible would have burst into flames after his phony testimony about EPA’s legal authority to set standards for unlimited carbon pollution from power plants,” said David DiMartino, adviser to the Climate Action Campaign.“But I guess we shouldn’t be surprised— a wad of coal industry money burning a hole in your pocket can make you do strange things,” he added.

Indeed, Tribe was hired to represent its interests by Peabody Energy, the world’s largest private-sector coal company, and is the company’s counsel in a lawsuit that seeks to invalidate the EPA plan. That is what lawyers do, and what they exist to do: represent citizens and companies as they seek to avail themselves of their guaranteed right to use the law to protect their interests. Continue reading

7 Comments

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

Unethical Comment Threads: Slate’s Soulless, Cynical Hillary Enablers

The-Soulless

Hillary Clinton wiped her server clean of emails after a congressional committee had been established to investigate matters that she knew her e-mails related to and would be requested to investigate. She also made this decision after the Department of State belatedly asked her to return her e-mails for the public record as the law requires.

Destruction of documents after they have been requested by an official body authorized to do so is called spoliation. That’s intentional destruction of evidence to hide the truth: it can be illegal, and is always unethical. Moreover, spoliation supports the rebuttable presumption that the individual in charge  is attempting to cover up wrongdoing.  For an ex-government official to do this is damning; for a potential presidential candidate to do it is disqualifying…or should be, if the partisans of the party she belongs to have a shred of integrity, decency, civic responsibility or common sense.

Based on the comments on the Slate report on Clinton’s spoiliation, they may not have. Continue reading

17 Comments

Filed under Character, Citizenship, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, The Internet