Category Archives: Professions

Ethics Hero: Advice Columnist Carolyn Hax

But it worked for Scarlet!

But it worked for Scarlett!

I’ve made Hax, the Washington Post’s relationship advice columnist, an Ethics Hero before. This time it’s for something more than her usual spot-on instincts about right and wrong, and more about her method of expressing them. You know I am not fond of weasel words, equivocation and gentle rhetoric when emphatic prose is called for, and Hax, though she is more prudent than I, laps her competition when it comes to firing off both barrels when it is called for.

In this response, she was responding to a man whose brother stopped speaking to him after he gently suggested to him that his niece had a huge honker for her face and it might be time to visit the local plastic surgeon. The advice-seeker lives  “in a community where a lot of teenage girls have cosmetic surgery at 16,” he explained, and both his wife and daughter had their noses made button-like. “Was I over the line in making this suggestion in a private setting?” he asked Hax.

Her unrestrained, wise and glorious response: Continue reading

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Filed under Childhood and children, Ethics Heroes, Etiquette and manners, Family, Gender and Sex, Health and Medicine, Professions

Ethics Quiz: The Lawyer’s Ned Beatty E-Mail

miss piggyArizona Supreme Court Rule 41(g), permits attorney discipline based on the bar’s determination that an Arizona lawyer has engaged in “offensive conduct.” Now Dennis Wilenchik, an Arizona lawyer who got in a nasty e-mail exchange with a client over a fee is challenging his “admonishment,” a significant form of bar discipline, based on the surprise declaration of his contentious client that he was never offended. An admonished lawyer will usually accept discipline by consent, which in Wilenchik’s case includes a one-year probation period and anger management treatment.

The e-mail exchange began getting heated when Wilenchik called his client, who owned a medical marijuana consulting business, a “cheap asshole.” Later he threatened to sue for his fee, to which his client replied,“Bring it, bitch!”

Wilenchik’s evocative response: “OK drug dealer—I look forward to the many nights and mornings when you think of my name and squeal—you mean nothing to me. Check out the movie Deliverance.

You know, like in this classic film moment…

Yes, cultural references to film classics are very useful. Still, it was this reference that clinched it with the disciplinary committee.

Wilenchik’s lawyer says there is newly discovered evidence showing that the client’s complaint to the bar was based on a claim that the client feared he would be gang raped because of the reference to “Deliverance.”

In a declaration, the complaining client now says he wasn’t offended by anything in Wilenchik’s emails:

“In fact, I thought that Mr. Wilenchik’s last Deliverance email to me was rather humorous actually, and stated in such a manner that neither I nor any reasonable person would or could seriously construe this to be a real intent to harm me or my family. Moreover, Mr. Wilenchik’s last Deliverance email to me was exactly what I would expect anyone, including a lawyer, to write after I sent an email saying, ‘Bring it bitch.’ In other words, these emails were harmless banter which I instigated and therefore it is impossible for me to have been offended.”

Your Ethics Alarms Labor Day Weekend Ethics Quiz is this:

Does someone have to be offended for a lawyer’s conduct to be sufficiently offensive to warrant discipline?

Continue reading

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Filed under Etiquette and manners, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions

Ethical Quote Of The Month: PBS Ombudsman Michael Getler

pbs-logo-in-black

“One would have to lean way over backwards to give her the benefit of the doubt that she was simply shedding light on the administration’s view of portions of Netanyahu’s arguments. But to personalize it by saying, “Take that, Bibi” is, in my book, inexcusable for an experienced journalist who is the co-anchor of a nightly news program watched by millions of people over the course of any week.”

—PBS Ombudsman Michael Getler, giving no quarter and making no rationalizations to slam PBS news host Gwen Ifill for her” “Take that, Bibi” taunt via Twitter.

Bravo.

Note that he also is saying that Ifill’s defense is a lie. As indeed it was. Later, as you can read, he makes it clear that he believes that Ifill is too experienced to make the mistake she claims she made. She made a different mistake: letting her bias rule her judgment and professionalism.

What do you know, a real, honest ombudsman who doesn’t view his job as spinning for his bosses!

I wonder why the New York Times can’t find one.

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Ethics Quotes, Journalism & Media, Professions, Social Media

Unethical Tweet Of The Month: PBS’S Gwen Ifill

gwen ifill tweetThis was, of course, in reaction to yesterday’s developments that indicate sufficient Democratic support for President Obama’s Iran nuclear deal.

Ifill defends her tweet: of course she does. She has been a brazen cheerleader for the President since he was campaigning in 2008, and made it very clear that she sees nothing wrong with that, even when she was the moderator for the 2008 Vice-Presidential debate while her book about the inspiring achievement of Obama’s ascent to the Presidency—he hadn’t been elected yet, remember—was awaiting publication. PBS proved its bias (as if further proof were necessary) by shrugging off a blindingly clear conflict of interest and appearance of impropriety on her part then, and it will doubtlessly do so now. Ifill is defiantly pro-Obama. The tweet, however, is worse than that.

An American journalist taunting  the leader of an important American ally is unprofessional and, in this case especially despicable. Isreal’s legitimate concern about the Iran agreement is that under the best of circumstances, the scenario that the advocates for the deal admit, Iran will gain the resources to vastly enhance its support of terror in the Middle East, much of which will be focused on harming citizens of the nation that Iran has openly vowed to destroy. Take that, Bibi! Jews are going to die! Nyaa nyaa! Under the worst case scenario, the treaty makes it easier for Iran to wipe Israel off the face of the earth. How dare a nation’s leader express concern about his nation’s security and survival? Yeah, let’s make fun of him as the U.S. all but ensures a nuclear Iran 15 years from now.

Curt Schilling has been suspended by ESPN for making a legitimate historical observation that didn’t affect or relate to his job as a baseball analyst at all. Ifill’s tweet insults a world leader, displays gross partisanship, undermines PBS’s official pose as an objective news source and shows not merely terrible judgment, but the arrogance and shamelessness  that those who view themselves as immune from consequences eventually embrace.

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Filed under Around the World, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Professions, Social Media, Unethical Tweet

Unethical Quote of the Week: Kim Davis

“I never imagined a day like this would come, where I would be asked to violate a central teaching of Scripture and of Jesus Himself regarding marriage. To issue a marriage license which conflicts with God’s definition of marriage, with my name affixed to the certificate, would violate my conscience. It is not a light issue for me. It is a Heaven or Hell decision. For me it is a decision of obedience. I have no animosity toward anyone and harbor no ill will. To me this has never been a gay or lesbian issue. It is about marriage and God’s Word. It is a matter of religious liberty, which is protected under the First Amendment, the Kentucky Constitution, and in the Kentucky Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Our history is filled with accommodations for people’s religious freedom and conscience. I want to continue to perform my duties, but I also am requesting what our Founders envisioned – that conscience and religious freedom would be protected. That is all I am asking. I never sought to be in this position, and I would much rather not have been placed in this position. I have received death threats from people who do not know me. I harbor nothing against them. I was elected by the people to serve as the County Clerk. I intend to continue to serve the people of Rowan County, but I cannot violate my conscience.”

—-Kim Davis, Rowan County Kentucky Clerk  and hero of the addled, who has been making an ass out of herself while inconveniencing and insulting citizens of the State of Kentucky who only wish to get a marriage license, as is their right, in an official statement today released by her lawyers.

Stop in the name of arrogance and ignorance!

Stop in the name of arrogance and ignorance!

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to extend a temporary stay of a federal court order directing Davis to stop grandstanding, do her job and issue marriage licenses to a same-sex couples. One of the couples that Davis sought to deny the equal protection of law sued her, hence the order.   Davis’s lawyers, who have been giving her lousy advice, appealed  that order to the Court of Appeals, which stayed the lower court order until August 31. Now the stay of the order is no longer in effect, she’s out of even semi-rational options, and the courts are out of patience.

Davis, expressing certainty regarding her gross misinterpretation of law, religion, the Bible, and what it means to have a job, embraces a version of the Rule of Law that would lead directly to a theocracy. She is doing more damage to Christianity by her high profile idiocy than any gay couple possibly could. Continue reading

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Filed under Citizenship, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Incompetent Elected Officials, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions, Race, Religion and Philosophy, Rights, Romance and Relationships

Three Florida Lawyers Discover How Reporting a Crime Can Be Unethical

DUI_setup

How can you get disbarred for reporting a drunk driver? Three Florida lawyers were up to the task.

Stephen Diaco, Robert Adams and Adam Filthaut were found to have “maliciously” set up the drunken-driving arrest of their opposing counsel in a  high-profile defamation trial, and Judge W. Douglas Baird,  the referee in their legal ethics case,  wrote  that Stephen Diaco, Robert Adams and Adam Filthaut should lose their licenses permanently under the legal ethics standards of the Florida Bar.

In 2013, C. Philip Campbell was representing radio shock jock Todd “MJ” Schnitt in his slander suit against another DJ, “Bubba the Love Sponge” Clem. Clem was represented by the Adams and Diaco law firm. Campbell  left court and went to Malio’s Steakhouse in downtown Tampa, near his home and office. While Campbell was at the eatery, he was spotted by Melissa Personius, a young paralegal who worked for Adams and Diaco.

According to testimony, Personius called her boss, Adams, to report that Campbell was in the restaurant. Then Personius sat next to Campbell and the two bought each other drinks. As the night proceeded, Personius periodically relayed information to Adams. Adams then contacted Diaco and Diaco constacted Filthaut to agree upon next steps. The key was that Filthaut was friends with Sgt. Raymond Fernandez, who was then head of the Tampa police DUI unit, thus was able to sic  the DUI unit on the unsuspecting opposing counsel, who was in the process of being plied with liquor by Adams and Diaco’s attractive paralegal.

When it was time to for the targeted lawyer to leave, Campbell told Personius that she was too tipsy to drive and offered to call her a cab. Personius protested that she didn’t want to leave her car at the restaurant overnight and asked Campbell  if he would move the car for her. “Of course,” he said, nice guy that he is. As Campbell drove her vehicle up the street, he made an illegal turn and was pulled over by Fernandez officers, who were lying in wait. He was arrested and charged with DUI. Continue reading

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

Law vs. Ethics: A Snatched Bar Mitzvah Gift, A Leaky AG, An Embarrassing Scoreboard, and”OINK”

Oink

I try to keep my legal ethics seminars up-to-the-minute, so while preparing for yesterday’s session with the Appellate Section of the Indiana Bar, I came across a bunch of entertaining stories in which the ethics were a lot clearer than the law, or vice-versa. All of them could and perhaps should sustain separate posts; indeed, I could probably devote the blog entirely to such cases.

Here are my four favorites from the past week’s legal news, involving a mother-son lawsuit, a brazenly unethical attorney general, a college scoreboard named after a crook, and police officer’s sense of humor: Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Family, Finance, Government & Politics, Humor and Satire, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Marketing and Advertising, Professions, Rights, Sports, U.S. Society