Monday Ethics Revelations…

Taking stock of ethics from a long and eventful Monday…

1. As of yesterday, Ethics Alarms is about to complete its most successful month ever in terms of traffic and new followers, beating last August by almost 2000 visitors a day. Thanks to everyone who participated. Thanks especially to the untrustworthy folks at Snopes, whose partisan manipulations and the Ethics Alarms exposure of them fueled the single most read Ethics Alarms post in any month, unseating the previous champion, this, which was a trivial post that the Instapundit, Glenn Reynolds, deemed the only Ethics Alarms story worth linking to.

2. Yesterday, I was a guest at a large and combative gathering of personal injury lawyers to work out a dispute involving lots of money, and when the time came for me to speak, I was hooted down and had it made quite clear to me that the majority of participants had no interest in legal ethics whatsoever.

3. They  made it clear that they didn’t know much about ethics either. For example, at one point a lawyer threatened to sue another lawyer for representations made on behalf of a client that the first lawyer felt impugned his character. Lawyers are immune from such suits. To the extent that the lawyer was trying to use a bogus threat to intimidate the other lawyer into representing his client with less zeal, that tactic is unethical, but still not forbidden by the legal ethics rules….because lawyers use the threat to sue all the time.

Just like Donald Trump.

4. Another example: one issue was whether a lawyer had accepted an unethical fee division. He protested that he had directed that his share of the controversial fee to be given instead to a worthy organization. That doesn’t matter, though: it’s unethical for lawyers to split fees with non-lawyers, including worthy organizations. And if a lawyer accepts an improper fee split, it doesn’t matter how deserving the charity is that he passes the money on to. The ethics rule was breached the minute he got the money, and what he does with it afterward can’t fix it.

5. When I did get a chance to speak to the group briefly, I was challenged by several of the lawyers who asked whom I represented. I explained that I was there as a consultant on ethics, to which one replied, “Then you’re an advocate, right?”

My response: “No, that’s not right. I’m not an advocate, except for ethical conduct. I would say exactly the same thing no matter who hired me. I am here to assess what is ethical conduct objectively, not to slant my judgment according to who is paying me.”

The reaction to this statement, meeting room-wide, was…

There was some barking, too.

67 Comments

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

67 responses to “Monday Ethics Revelations…

  1. charlesgreen

    “…a large and combative gathering of personal injury lawyers…”
    (Is there any other kind?)

    Wow, how to start your day off in a bad mood… I can’t imagine a more negative crowd. Ethics? Must’ve been like red meat to a lion.

  2. “To the extent that the lawyer was trying to use a bogus threat to intimidate the other lawyer into representing his client with less zeal, that tactic is unethical, but still not forbidden by the legal ethics rules….because lawyers use the threat to sue all the time.

    Just like Donald Trump.”

    In the past, when you’ve made tangential comparisons of left-wing darlings such as Clinton or Obama to the primary subjects of the Post, the resident lefties here reliably come out of the woodwork crying foul and protesting the comparison as “useless to the topic of the post”.

    I eagerly await the same lefties to come pouring out in defense of poor ole Trump, who is now the subject of one such tangential comparison.

    I think the response I expect will be the sound of crickets.

    • texagg04 said, “In the past, when you’ve made tangential comparisons of left-wing darlings such as Clinton or Obama to the primary subjects of the Post, the resident lefties here reliably come out of the woodwork crying foul and protesting the comparison as “useless to the topic of the post”.

      I eagerly await the same lefties to come pouring out in defense of poor ole Trump, who is now the subject of one such tangential comparison.”

      Interesting observation.

      texagg04 said, “I think the response I expect will be the sound of crickets.”

      Now that you put in everyone’s face you’re likely to get at least some that’ll agree with you; on the other hand, you’ll never know what would have happened if you hadn’t said something about it – would have been an interesting thing to observe a while longer on this one to see what kind of reaction there was.

      • “Now that you put in everyone’s face you’re likely to get at least some that’ll agree with you; on the other hand, you’ll never know what would have happened if you hadn’t said something about it – would have been an interesting thing to observe a while longer on this one to see what kind of reaction there was.”

        I already know there wouldn’t have been a reaction, this way, the typical knee-jerkers who feel compelled to respond to look balanced will be squirming in their defense of Trump and those who refuse to respond will also be squirming in their double standard.

        Either way, I’m content.

        • texagg04,
          I think it’s kinda handy when they prop their hypocrisy up on their shoulder for all to see without anyone having to prod them on; but, to each their own.

          • Whatever you think man. You pick the oddest minutiae to argue.

            Every last one of the knee jerks here passed right over the Trump reference with a mild “yep, that jerk Trump” and not once thought about their own double standards.

            Pointing it out causes a useful squirm.

            • texagg04 said, “You pick the oddest minutiae to argue.”

              Really; wasn’t it you who broached the topic I was discussing?

              We’re on the flip side of the same page, we both know there are double standards, we both know there is hypocrisy; so, whatever.

              • No, you weren’t discussing the topic. You were discussing the efficacy of the topic.

                There’s a difference there.

                • Pardon me… the efficacy of bringing up the topic…

                • Tex,
                  I’m not going to go down this road with you any further. Disagree if you feel you must.

                  What I said is that it would have been interesting to wait and see what “lefties” did. Instead you chose to jump the gun with a deflecting “attack” against the resident lefties on this site assuming that none would point out what Jack did with the Trump statement. Your assumption may very well turn out to be accurate, but it was still an attack based on an assumption. That’s enough about that.

                  Moving on now…

                  Have you noticed that there aren’t many people that have actually talked about the core content of Jacks blog but there’s plenty of chatter about lefty hypocrisy, tilting head dogs, and the The Mama’s & The Papa’s?

                  • “Have you noticed that there aren’t many people that have actually talked about the core content of Jacks blog but there’s plenty of chatter about lefty hypocrisy, tilting head dogs, and the The Mama’s & The Papa’s?”

                    And?

                    Generally means most people agree with his assessment. Do we lament that?

                    • texagg04 said, “And?”

                      And nothing, really; I was just wondering if you (or anyone) had noticed.

                      texagg04 said, “Generally means most people agree with his assessment.”

                      Maybe, maybe not; I can’t make that call. I just found it interesting.

                      texagg04 said, “Do we lament that?”

                      Sure, why not?

    • Spartan

      Horse feathers. I do that all the time. I think it detracts from his posts when he makes comparisons like that — regardless of political affiliation.

      Have you criticized Jack of engaging in this behavior when he attributes conduct to a leftie?

      • “Horse feathers. I do that all the time. I think it detracts from his posts when he makes comparisons like that — regardless of political affiliation.”

        Could you link to an instance where you’ve rushed to the defense of tangentially related conservative, republican, and/or right winger?

        “Have you criticized Jack of engaging in this behavior when he attributes conduct to a leftie?”

        Nope. Do I need to? I don’t take umbrage when Jack reminds us that our current stock of leadership engages in just the kind of unethical behavior that one of his articles is highlighting.

        Oh…you must think I was criticizing Jack for associating Trump with this article. You should re-read. I didn’t.

        • Spartan

          I’m at work, so no, I don’t have the time to do that. You can take me at my word or search through the hundreds of posts I have written on your own.

          But I stand by my criticism.

          • I do note however, that you don’t seem to have an issue with the Trump reference here…

            • Spartan

              What makes you think that? Can’t you infer that from my comment, ” I think it detracts from his posts when he makes comparisons like that — regardless of political affiliation.”

              Also, I don’t comment on every one of Jack’s posts — and I try to avoid the ones that deal with political commentary for the most part.

              Don’t read silence as acceptance. Sometimes I just don’t want to engage.

              • Spartan said, “Don’t read silence as acceptance. Sometimes I just don’t want to engage.”

                Ditto that!!!

                • In fact; you’ll rarely find me commenting on anything sports related; I haven’t given a damn about sports or those directly involved with sports since the 70’s. The billions of dollars related to sports from top to bottom has driven me away.

                  • Spartan

                    I tend to avoid the sports posts too, although ironically I am a sucker for a great sports movie. The Natural is one of my favorites.

                    • Sports are a petri dish for ethics. I don’t see why the setting for an ethics issue should matter at all. All the issues and principles are transferable.

                    • Spartan

                      Oh, I agree with you. There are lots of great sports ethics stories out there. Sports just are not a passion of mine, so they don’t resonate with me as much personally as some of your other topics.

                    • Jack Marshall said, “Sports are a petri dish for ethics. I don’t see why the setting for an ethics issue should matter at all. All the issues and principles are transferable.”

                      Everything you said is true, but my turn off for sports makes a big difference to me. Because I know I’m predetermined to be strongly biased against sports in general it’s just better for me to walk away from commenting on related things, it’s probably better for your other readers too. It doesn’t mean that I don’t read some of the blogs, but you just won’t find me commenting on many. It’s an active choice and it’s the right choice for me.

                    • Got it, and I understand. I just had an off-post debate from someone telling me why they were dumping the blog who said the ethics they were interested in had nothing to do with”sports, theater, or dissection of political speeches.” I’m a big analogy and cross=over guy, so I was in the move to argue about this.

              • charlesgreen

                What Spartan said. Thank you.

                If I took the time to respond to Jack every time I disagreed with him, or agreed with him, I’d have no time left, and be hugely annoyed to boot. I choose to let a lot pass.

                • charlesgreen said, “If I took the time to respond to Jack every time I disagreed with him, or agreed with him, I’d have no time left, and be hugely annoyed to boot.”

                  You might be “annoyed” if you did that but if I did that I’d be annoying everyone else. 😉

    • See with this post I would expect that there would be comment about “righties” who use any and all contexts or comments to make disparaging remarks about the left or their candidates (and they would be right, at least on this one! *grin*)

  3. It’s too bad how closed minded and subsequently ethically ignorant some people can be.

  4. Patrice

    I liked the doggie video. Thanks.

  5. carcarwhite

    i am glad your blog is growing!! i’ve shared it about 20 times in Facebook “discussions” and have had quite a few people tell me they did start reading your stuff 🙂 and they told some friends, and so on, and so on, and so on.

    really though, i am very thankful for your site. it helped me to know i wasn’t going crazy reading the left and right… that there were real thinkers out there that were consistent or at least seek truth.

    thanks so much. i mean it.

    • That means a lot to me. Thanks so much.

      • carcarwhite

        you are more than welcome! i have shared it with some of my friends who are authors, movers and shakers in the world, and they all liked it too.
        people i consider “great people in this world.”

        my only pause in sharing it with some people who may like your points is, you call people names like “asshole” etc. i don’t mind it, but some liberals i know are such snobs they’d be put off by that and disregard everything else. in fact, one person said as much.

        let me share one of my many convos 🙂 i hope you find it interesting. (mind you i am NOT educated much in politics at all, however i think i still think clearly sometimes.)

        Me: this… OMG brad… this guy is amazing!!!! this is on abortion. https://ethicsalarms.com/2016/03/26/indianas-unconstitutional-unethical-thoughtful-subversive-abortion-law/
        Indiana’s Unconstitutional, Unethical, Thoughtful, Subversive Abortion Law
        The law is unconstitutional as well as unethical. It exposes the lie at abortion advocacy’s core, however, and its ethical hypocrisy. That’s a contribution to the debate…if anyone…
        ethicsalarms.com

        JUL 16TH, 9:19PM
        me: hey did you see that website i showed you
        i thought you would appreciate it
        since you studied ethics too

        HIM: This guy is very emotional. He seems a bit unhinged to me.

        Me: really?, wow, not to me,
        he seems very factual and level headed

        HIM: i dont mind passion

        ME: can you argue with any of his points?
        he calls out trump pretty harshly
        but makes WAY more sense than most ppl who do

        HIM: In the first sentence of that article he cals people “brainless”. I will not listen to people who call other people brainless.

        ME: OMG
        what if he’s right?
        about the facts????

        HIM: that people like me have no brain?
        What facts? He states no facts.

        ME: idk what article you are reading
        and… the sources you say you listen to call ppl all kinds of names

        HIM: the indiana law about abortion.
        No they do not. NPR does not call people names. Reuters is not going to call people names.

        ME: what is wrong with this? “brainless news media and kneejerk progressives who haven’t given abortion and its many ethical problems one-thousandth of the careful”
        some ppl are brainless, doens’t mean all are
        i think it’s making a point about certain kinds of ppl who comment but have not really thougth things thru.

        HIM: I have many progressive friends NONE OF THE THEM ARE KNEEJERK. This is just emotion. Demonizing people like me.
        then he’s not addressing them

        ME:i dont think he is
        i never have thought that

        HIM: The laws come from the supreme court. Sandra Day Oconnor is not kneejerk.

        ME: some ppl who are progressives do have kneejerk reactions no?
        it is not saying “all progressives have kneejerk reactions”
        i guess i read it different
        it seems he is saying “one type of ppl” – NOT all who are progressive.

        HIM: The court cases have been affirmed by David Souter and Anthony Kennedy and Sandra Day OConnor. He is making a straw man of what the courts have decided.

        ME: so did you read it?
        i thought it was really good… as most every article i have read on his site.
        oh well…

        HIM: Yes, I do think his point about on the basis of race etc is interesting.

        ME: well i find him very refrishing, honest and non partisian
        he equally calls out each side in a way that to me sounds courageous
        and honest the stuff he says about trump is the FIRST time i’ve read someone who made a point intellegently against him.

        anyway that’s a flavor of the convo.

        keep up the good work!! 🙂 really. your labor is not in vain and help people like me very much in sifting thru the garbage. also, maybe you could have a talk show or tv show 🙂 haha. i can hook ya up! 🙂

    • I’m glad it’s growing as well. I don’t agree with everything on it, but I do agree with most of it. It’s a good blog, generally well thought out and one many should read.

  6. zoebrain

    ” I was challenged by several of the lawyers who asked whom I represented. I explained that I was there as a consultant on ethics, to which one replied, “Then you’re an advocate, right?”

    My response: “No, that’s not right. I’m not an advocate, except for ethical conduct. I would say exactly the same thing no matter who hired me
    .–

    An Expert Witness. Whose duty is to the Court, not to whoever happens to be paying for their professional opinion.

    I think it fair to say that you are a qualified expert in the field of Legal Ethics.

    • zoebrain

      May I ask some questions regarding Ethics and Expert witnesses?

      I assume that if an advocate pays for 3 expert opinions from A,B, and C, that it is legally ethical for him to only produce A and B’s reports in court, (that favour his side) and to sit on C’s, which does not? Unless he’s a criminal prosecutor, in which case he’s obliged to reveal all evidence helpful to the defence.

      Is it ethical for an expert witness to provide a non-exclusive opinion, where both sides in a case split the fee, and both get a copy of the report? I’ve suggested that in the past, when both sides in a case approached me independently as an expert in a specialised area, where expertise was thin on the ground.

      Or does hire by one side always cause a conflict of interest precluding giving any opinion to the other? In theory it should not, the duty of the expert is to aid the Court, not any particular side.

      The problem with this is that an unscrupulous advocate could “nobble” experts likely to give damaging opinions by hiring them to give preliminary reports at low costs, just to prevent them from being utilised as experts by the opposition. This would be dishonest, but does the ethical duty of an advocate to act in the best interests of his client over-ride that?

      • I assume that if an advocate pays for 3 expert opinions from A,B, and C, that it is legally ethical for him to only produce A and B’s reports in court, (that favour his side) and to sit on C’s, which does not? Unless he’s a criminal prosecutor, in which case he’s obliged to reveal all evidence helpful to the defence.

        Right. But they never have to hire three: they can easily find one well-respected expert who will customize an opinion to support that lawyer’s case. Or they can just ask the expert what their position is likely to be.

        Is it ethical for an expert witness to provide a non-exclusive opinion, where both sides in a case split the fee, and both get a copy of the report? I’ve suggested that in the past, when both sides in a case approached me independently as an expert in a specialised area, where expertise was thin on the ground.

        In an advocacy system, that’s not going to happen. It wouldn’t be unethical for an expert to do it, though. An expert isn’t required to have loyalty to one said or the other.

        Or does hire by one side always cause a conflict of interest precluding giving any opinion to the other? In theory it should not, the duty of the expert is to aid the Court, not any particular side.

        If one side hires you, it is understood that you are that lawyer’s contractor, and will not communicate what is now confidential information to the other side. In my case, I’m also a lawyer: if I was not going to operate using legal ethics in a law related arrangement, I would be obligated to so warn the lawyer up front, meaning that I wouldn’t be hired.

        The problem with this is that an unscrupulous advocate could “nobble” experts likely to give damaging opinions by hiring them to give preliminary reports at low costs, just to prevent them from being utilised as experts by the opposition.

        It would look bad though. The evidence of that being done would be used to discredit the side doing it. There’s freedom of contract: anyone can pay anyone to promise not to work for someone else. Is that unethical on the part of the promisee? If someone wants to pay me to promise never to work for a company I can’t imagine ever hiring me to put their mind at ease, I can’t see why it would be unethical of me to take the money.

        This would be dishonest, but does the ethical duty of an advocate to act in the best interests of his client over-ride that?

        How would it be dishonest, since the fact of the contract would be discoverable? It would just be wasteful and stupid. If your case is that weak on the facts, settle, or don’t take the case.

    • Right. Except that most experts, including ethics experts, don’t operate that way, though they will deny it.

      • zoebrain

        So call me naive. Or so egotistical that I think I’m better than others, so try to act as if I am. No matter what the cause, I take this stuff seriously.

        The few times I’ve done expert witness work, although the lawyers were a little unhappy at me for refusing to reword sentences when I thought that would change their meaning, they were entirely satisfied with the reports at the end. They swiftly dropped some of the more damaging claims that the evidence didn’t support, but doubled down on the lesser ones which it did, and after opposing counsel had seen the report during negotiations, and consulted with their clients, they settled for the full compensation demanded.

        • Gee, when I delivered an analysis that my lawyer clients felt didn’t back their case sufficiently, they just refused to pay me. I’m still owed 7000 bucks. I like your lawyers better.

          • Gee is an gross understatement.

            If they had wanted to hire you as an attack dog to agree with them and trash the opposition they should have said so up front, then you could have turned them down and they could have hired some unethical ends justify the means crackpot.

            Jack was hired to do a job, he did that job; pay up the 7G’s you unethical hacks!

  7. Other Bill

    The Mamas and Papas. Oh Boy. Were they ever over-produced. They must have been Phil Spectered, as they said themselves. Then there was The Association (isn’t that what Al Qaida means?). The music we were sold hasn’t held up very well. And how about the choreography? Eesch. Embarrassing.

    • Nice harmonies, though: Denny Daugherty and Mama Cass could really sing. The Association was junk; the Mamas and Papas were and are a monument to how drugs defeat talent: John Phillips fried his brains, and even passed on his addictions to his daughter, whose acting career was derailed by them.

      Phillips was once asked what the heck the lyrics to “Monday, Monday,” meant and he answered, (I’m paraphrasing): “That was a long time ago, and I was stoned. I honesty have no idea. They meant sense to me at the time.”

      Poor John. And nice hat.

      • THE Bill

        Denny Daugherty and Mama Cass were the core of the group, When they weren’t there the group fell apart.

        John Phillips was an ass from the beginning. He didn’t want Cass in the group because felt her voice was too low and that her appearance was a hindrance .

    • charlesgreen

      Mamas and Papas–I saw them live–simple four piece band backup. They weren’t over-produced, they were talented. Mama Cass could fill a room with her voice without a mic. They didn’t need the Spector treatment.

      • Other Bill

        From the wiki article about The Wrecking Crew

        The group’s ranks began to materialize in the late 1950s, but in the early 1960s they fully coalesced into what became their most recognizable form when they became the de facto house band for Phil Spector, sometimes credited as the Phil Spector Wall of Sound Orchestra, playing on many of the hits that he produced at the time, and contributing to the development of his Wall of Sound production methods. After the initial success of Spector’s records, they became the most requested session musicians in Los Angeles, playing behind many popular recording artists such as Jan & Dean, Sonny & Cher, Barry McGuire, the Mamas & the Papas,

        The line I was thinking of was Paul Simon’s:

        I been Phil Spectored, resurrected
        I been Lou Adlered, Barry Sadlered

        Come on, Charles, you can’t say those voices have not been acoustically enhanced or doubled or tripled in the studio. The’re lip-synching. There’s not a microphone in sight.

        • THE Bill

          The wrecking crew played on some of their albums but I think they were produced by Lou Adler not Phil.

        • charlesgreen

          I confess I didn’t know about them lip-synching on Ed Sullivan; though apparently everyone did.
          https://itunes.apple.com/us/music-video/california-dreamin-ed-sullivan/id418243597

          More importantly, I saw them live in 1966 or 1967 at the War Memorial in Syracuse New York – and obviously really singing. You don’t lip-synch a whole show like they did.

          Here’;s an obviously live performance of her doing a duet with John Denver

          As others have noted here, Denny and Mama Cass were terrifically talented vocalists. John and Michelle were eye candy.

      • There are so many performers like that, whose true talent only comes through live. Spector, however, was still a genius. Can’t beat Do-Do-Ron-Ron. Too bad he went nuts.

  8. Other Bill

    Other than John’s Russian fur hat, the very best thing about the group was how cute Michelle Phillips was.

  9. Jack,
    Since you are an ethicist and you get to talk to groups lawyers and others specifically about ethics routinely, I have a couple of questions to help satisfy my curiosity;

    1. Do you see a lack of ethics in people due to ignorance of ethics or ignoring ethics?

    2. Once people are taught ethics, has there been a noticeable trend to change their ways to more ethical behaviors or does the trend remain “unethical”? I know you hope their behaviors become more ethical once exposed to ethical training or consulting but do you get any feedback about such things?

    3. Do you see a trend leaning towards ignoring ethics in favor of the ends justify the means or do you see a trend of wanting to know about ethics to improve their ethical behavior?

  10. For the record, the reason I inject Hillary, or Trump, or Obama, in otherwise unrelated posts is the same reason I write about sports ethics, psychic ethics, reality show ethics, and anything else I encounter: because its all related, all a tapestry, interwoven.

  11. Al Veerhoff

    There’s almost as much bloviating here as at a Donald Trump rally (and by the way did you see my approval rating is up 2 points?).

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