Tag Archives: conflicts of interest

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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Filed under Law & Law Enforcement

State Of U.S. Journalism: “Conflict of Interest? Oh, THAT Old Thing!”

At last report, rolling in his grave...

At last report, rolling in his grave…

I believe that the field of journalism ethics has been negated, as the news media now routinely ignores the most obvious conflicts of interest, and make no effort  to avoid them, address them, or disclose them.

Case #1: Taking orders from Hamas

 Hamas has published media guidelines instructing Gazans to always refer to the dead as “innocent civilians” and to never post pictures of armed Palestinians on social media. Hamas has prevented foreign reporters from leaving the area, and it is easy to see how foriegn journalists would conclude that the best way to ensure their safety is to avoid angering their “hosts.” Seemingly mindful of these concerns, the New York Times’ reporting on the Gaza conflict from Israel depicts tanks, soldiers, and attack helicopters, while virtually all images from Gaza are of dead children, weeping parents, bloody civilians, ruined buildings, overflowing hospitals, or similar images of pain, carnage and anguish. As Noah Pollack noted in the Weekly Standard website,  a Times photo essay today contains these images:

“…three of Gaza civilians in distress; one of a smoke plume rising over Gaza; and three of the IDF, including tanks and attack helicopters. The message is simple and clear: the IDF is attacking Gaza and harming Palestinian civilians. There are no images of Israelis under rocket attack, no images of grieving Israeli families and damaged Israeli buildings, no images of Hamas fighters or rocket attacks on Israel, no images of the RPG’s and machine guns recovered from attempted Hamas tunnel infiltrations into Israel.”

Is this just naked anti-Israel bias, or is the Times simply trying to report the story without getting its reporters’ into further peril? I’ll be charitable and presume the latter: fine. But that defines a clear conflict of interest that mars the objectivity of the Times’ reporting, and the paper has an ethical obligation, under its own guidelines, to disclose it in every report where it might be relevant.

It has not. Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Childhood and children, Journalism & Media, Professions

Some Ethics Comments On The SCOTUS Hobby Lobby Decision

Hobby-Lobby1. First, read the decision, here. When you do, you will be disgusted at the blatant exaggerations and outright misrepresentations by various pundits, advocates, activists and reporters. In the case of the latter, this is incompetence and a breach of duty to the public. In the case of the rest, it is either dishonesty and willful deception, or stupidity. For example, as an exercise, count the number of misrepresentations and misstatements inherent in this tweet, from MSNBC ‘s Cenk Uygur:

 “I love that conservatives are now on the record as against contraception. Brilliant move to be against 99% of women!”

I count five, but I could be off by one or two. Is this genuine misunderstanding, or just intentional rabble-rousing? Who can tell, with shameless partisans like Cenk? Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Citizenship, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Religion and Philosophy, The Internet, U.S. Society

Betrayal of Trust: The Turncoat Virginia State Senator

Senator Puckett and daughter: 'Anything for little girl...even screwing over my constituents...'

Senator Puckett and daughter: ‘Anything for my little girl…even screwing over my constituents…’

Virginia Republicans are preparing for a show-down with Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe over the state budget and the expansion of Medicare to handle uninsured Virginians under the provisions of the Affordable Care Act. Unfortunately for them, Democrats hold the majority in the state Senate, or did, until some smoke-filled room maneuvering persuaded a conflicted Democratic state senator to resign, giving the GOP control of the chamber, at least for a while. Democratic Sen. Phillip P. Puckett ’s unexpected departure gives Republicans a 20-to-19 majority.

The Washington Post reported that Puckett (D-Russell) will announce his resignation from the Virginia Senate, effective immediately, paving the way for his daughter to continue as a district judge and for Puckett to take the job of deputy director of the state tobacco commission. Rationalizations for the move are flying, particularly as it affects Puckett’s daughter. Martha Puckett Ketron is already a Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court judge. Circuit Court judges in Southwestern Virginia gave her a temporary appointment last year while the General Assembly, which approves judicial appointments for the state, was in recess. The Virginia House of Delegates approved her appointment to a six-year term when it reconvened earlier this year, but the Senate rejected the appointment because of its standing policy against appointing the relatives of active legislators to the bench. (It’s a good policy.) Thus, you see, Daddy’s resignation directly benefits his little girl, though it stabs his party and his constituents right in their backs.

This is known as a conflict of interest. The soon-to-be ex-senator needs to bone up on the concept and its ramifications.The ethical way to handle this conflict would be for Puckett to refuse to do anything to influence the resolution of his daughter’s appointment whatsoever.

“It [that is, the resignation] should pave the way for his daughter,” said Republican Delegate Terry Kilgore, who sure looks like the architect of this smelly deal.  “She’s a good judge. . . . I would say that he wanted to make sure his daughter kept her judgeship. A father’s going do that.”

Not if he’s ethical, he won’t. The spin Republicans are putting on this is that Puckett is resigning for his daughter, and after that decision was made, Kilgore, who serves as the chairman of the state tobacco commission, offered him the post of deputy director. Not as a quid pro quo, mind you. Because he was qualified for the job.

Right.

Even if this was the actual sequence, and I doubt it, it has the appearance of impropriety and undermines public trust. That makes it the kind of transaction legislators are bound to avoid. The Huffington Post’s headline on the story is “GOP Straight Up Bribes Democratic Senator In Effort To Block Obamacare,” which is stating one interpretation of an ambiguous sequence of events as fact….lousy and unethical journalism, but as I said, this is the Huffington Post.

It could be that Puckett, on his own or even at the behest of his daughter, resigned so he could stay a judge, and then, realizing that Republicans would benefit and that he would be a pariah in his own party, negotiated the deal that got him his new job. It could also be that the Republicans, seeking a Senate majority, cooked this up, offered Puckett a package he couldn’t refuse (because he’s a corrupt and disloyal public servant), and thus it really was a quid pro quo deal. Note that Huffpo, biased as it is, frames this so the GOP is the villain.

This is not technically bribery, which is a crime. This is slimy, nauseating politics, but classic sausage-making: the Affordable Care Act owes its very existence to these kind of deals and worse. The question isn’t whether these maneuvers are ethical–they are not— but whether politics can exist without them, and whether one can have a functioning adversary party system without them. My guess is no. If you like the results of such old-fashioned hard-ball politics, then this is utilitarian: “Lincoln” showed how the 13th Amendment was passed by Lincoln’s operatives and lobbyists picking off weak and conflicted legislators like lions targeting wounded water buffalo. If you object to the results, well then, it’s dirty politics, and an unethical display of “the ends justify the means” at its worst.

But one man, had he integrity and proper respect for the job he had been entrusted by his constituents to do, could have made the whole matter academic by just performing the job he had been elected for, and subordinating his daughter’s career aspirations to his duty. Instead, Phillip P. Puckett betrayed his party, his post, his constituency and his state.

And one more thing: if his daughter were ethical, as judges are supposed to be, she would refuse to keep her judgeship this way.

__________________________

Sources: Washington Post, Huffington Post

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Filed under Character, Family, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media

Ethics Dunce: Republican Governors Association…And An Integrity Test For Chris Christie

This ugly beast keeps raising its head out of the muck, and it is the duty of every citizen, Republican or Democrat, who believes in justice and due process under law to beat it back with heavy clubs.

The Republican Governors Association is defending one of its own, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, with a series of ads attacking state Sen. Vincent Sheheen, an attorney who is her Democratic opposition in the gubernatorial race. The message of the ad, as summarized by  a voice-over, is that “Sheheen defended violent criminals who abused women and went to work setting them free.”

False. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Ethics Dunces, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement

Update: “The Kidneys of Orlac”

He will die, not with his boots on, but with his kidneys in...

He will die, not with his boots on, but with his kidneys in…

One of the best threads Ethics Alarms has ever hosted occurred in response to the November 2013 post, “The Kidneys of Orlac,” which discussed the strange case of the Ohio death row resident who wanted to donate his organs to ill relatives. The issue generated an Ethics Quiz, a follow-up poll (“The Amityville Kidney”) involving the related issue of whether the recipient of a murderer’s organs had a right to know their creepy origin, and a terrific Comment of the Day, which was just one of the COTD-worthy submissions.

I had forgotten about the story until Mark Draughn raised it again at Windy Pundit in the context of criticizing bioethicists, one of whom had what Mark considered a particularly misbegotten argument against the transplants (I agree with Mark about that argument, but I also oppose giving condemned prisoners the privilege of donating organs to loved ones, or anyone at all.) This led me to review original post, which led me to re-read the comments.

I also discovered the resolution of the dilemma, which occurred at the end of last month. Ronald Phillips will not be allowed to donate his organs, because he wouldn’t have enough time to recover from the operation before his execution.  Ah, yes, the old “You have to be in tip-top shape before we can kill you, or it isn’t really punishment”  Catch 22! Ethics, you see, had nothing to do with the bureaucratic resolution here, just the letter of the law, rules, and bureacrats refusing to look for the best solution in an anomalous situation, rather than the one they could reach on auto-pilot. As a result, nobody made a reasoned determination about what is right, or what capital punishment really signifies, or apparently even tried. That is how so many government decisions are made, and that, my friends, is far scarier than having the kidneys of a killer.

 

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Filed under Bioethics, Citizenship, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Law & Law Enforcement, Quizzes

Ethics Observations On A Journalism Scandal

washington-post-logo

Shame.

Executive Summary: Washington Post reporters Steven Mufson and Juliet Eilperin wrote a story for the website’s Wonkblog headlined, “The biggest lease holder in Canada’s oil sands isn’t Exxon Mobil or Chevron. It’s the Koch brothers.” The story was essentially false. It was based on easily disproved data from a progressive activist organization. Eilperin has close ties to both the environmental advocates opposing the Keystone pipeline, and desperately trying to turn public opinion against it. She also has tied to the White House. John Hinderaker, on Powerline, his respected conservative politics blog, exposed the Post story as a blatant misinformation with a likely political motive. The reporters responded with a jaw-dropping rationalization, and are currently being excoriated by the Post’s readers online.

The Facts: The Post article by Mufson and Eilperin begins: Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Heroes, Ethics Quotes, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Leadership, Professions, Unethical Blog Post, Workplace

The Comfort Women Memorial Lawsuit: A “Disgusting” Legal Argument, Perhaps…Unethical, No

The Glendale Comfort Women Memorial

The Glendale Comfort Women Memorial

The large and respected law firm Mayer Brown has taken the ugly case of some Japanese-American clients who want the city of Glendale, California to remove a memorial to World War II “comfort women” from a public park. In doing so, and in the way it is proceeding, the firm has inspired harsh condemnation from two estimable legal commentators, both First Amendment champions: Marc Randazza, and Ken White. Their objections, which caused Randazza to call the firm “the least honorable law firm in the world,”and White to conclude, “This lawsuit is thoroughly contemptible. It should fail, and everyone involved should face severe social consequences,” are heartfelt, but, I think, misguided. Their argument, beside arguing that the lawsuit is frivolous, is best articulated by Randazza: Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Government & Politics, History, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions, Rights

A Good Reason To Question Chris Christie’s Ethics

Thank you for that completely voluntary and generous contribution to the new ethics center at  my alma mater! You can leave your cell now."

Thank you for that completely voluntary and generous contribution to the new ethics center at my alma mater! You can leave your cell now.”

In a long report published in the Washington Post a week ago, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s conduct as a federal prosecutor was examined, under the headline, “Chris Christie’s long record of pushing boundaries, sparking controversy.” This is euphemistic, to say the least. What the report describes is clear-cut, undeniably unethical practices by Christie. They were arguably legal and technically permitted at the time (though no longer), but never mind: they were unethical, and would quickly set off the ethics alarms of any ethical lawyer or politician. For Christie, they did not.

I’ll focus only on the main practice in question. The Post’s Carol Morello and Carol D. Leonnig write,

“As the top federal prosecutor in New Jersey, Chris Christie struck an unusual deal with Bristol- Myers Squibb. In exchange for not charging the drugmaking giant with securities fraud, Christie’s office would require it to fund a professorship at Seton Hall University’s law school — Christie’s alma mater.The $5 million gift, one component of a larger agreement between the company and prosecutors, was hailed by the school, in South Orange, N.J., as a cornerstone of its new center on business ethics.”

Now there’s irony for you: a center on business ethics funded with an unethical gift from security fraudsters. For the passage above just as easily, and more accurately, might have read: Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership

Good News On Business Ethics? Maybe: The Ethics Research Center’s 2014 National Business Ethics Survey

ERC surveyThe Ethics Resource Center, a distinguished Washington, D.C. based ethics research and consulting firm, performs a survey of business employees every two years to measure trends in workplace ethics. It’s 2013 survey and report was released last week, and appears to bear good tidings. Workplace misconduct is on the decline, the data says.  41 percent of employees observed misconduct in 2013, way down from 55 percent in 2007. Moreover, ERC’s “National Business Ethics Survey,” which polled 6,400 U.S. employees, found that only 9 percent of employees polled felt pressure to compromise their standards in 2013, down from 13 percent in the previous survey in 2011.

ERC Chairman Michael G. Oxley  (of Sarbanes-Oxley fame) said in a release,“The results of the survey are encouraging and show that companies are doing a better job of holding workers accountable, imposing discipline for misconduct, and letting it be known publicly that bad behavior will be punished.”

Among the survey’s intriguing findings:

  • “Over the last two years, observed misconduct fell in every one of the 26 specific categories we asked about in both NBES 2011 and NBES 2013.
  • “Pressure to compromise standards, often a leading indicator of future misconduct, also was down – falling from 13 percent in 2011 to nine percent in the latest survey.”

Less encouraging are these: Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Research and Scholarship, U.S. Society, Workplace