Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/18/2017: Welcome To My World! Special Legal Follies Edition

Good Morning!

1  Oh, let’s begin the day with Roy Moore, the former Alabama judge and present wacko whom Alabama Republicans voted to represent the GOP in the 2018 U.S. Senate election, thus proving that there are a lot of deplorables in the state. As was completely predictable given his record, Moore recently told his drooling followers (after being introduced by Abraham Hamilton, Alexander Lincoln being unavailable),

“Somebody should be talking to the Supreme Court of the United States and say, ‘What gives them a right to declare that two men can get married?. . . Tell the Congress: Impeach these justices that put themselves above the Constitution. They’re judicial supremists and they should be taken off the bench.”

Comments Jonathan Turley,

So Moore believes that he should not have been removed from the bench for putting his personal religious beliefs above the Constitution, but justices should be removed if they interpretation the Constitution in a way that contradicts his religious beliefs.  This, he insisted, would ‘solve the problem….such a view would violate not just fundamental principles of judicial review but it would violate the impeachment clause.  As the last lead counsel in a judicial impeachment case (in defense of Judge Thomas Porteous), Moore’s view is deeply troubling.  As I have previously written, the Good Behavior Clause of Article III was designed to protect the independence of the judiciary and insulate it from political pressures.  It was meant as a guarantee of life tenure against precisely the type of threat that Moore is endorsing. 

But it’s pointless to make genuine legal and historical arguments against someone like Moore. He’s a theocrat, a fanatic, a bigot and a demagogue. The Republican Party should endorse his opposition and campaign against Moore. This fiasco is their fault, and someone like Moore should be kept out Congress at all costs.

2. Now to someone who is, incredible as it seems, somewhat less ridiculous, this gentleman, Christopher Wilson…


No, that’s not a botched tattoo on his forehead: the blurry words are “fuck” and “sluts”, making the whole, eloquent message, “I’m a porn star. I fuck teen sluts.” This roughly translates into  “Look at me! I’m an idiot!”  The newspapers that refused to print the blurred words (the police had the mugshot altered) that are essential to the story, meanwhile, are telling us, “We don’t understand our profession.” The story is incomprehensible if the actual words aren’t clear, literally or figuratively.  Fox News and the NY Post, for example, say, “The Cincinnati man has the words “I’m a pornstar” tattooed on his forehead” and “another vulgar message” tattooed below.” Since the issue is whether the message on his FACE is going to prejudice the jury in his trial for sexual assault, this is juvenile coverage omitting key information to avoid “giving offense.”

Ethics Alarms to the news media: Grow up.

Turley (again…he loves the tattoo stories) writes,

“The court will be left with a question of whether the tattoo is too prejudicial or whether it is unavoidable as a personal choice of the defendant….Yet, these tattoos contain an admission to the crime at issue in the trial.  In the end, a judge could legitimately conclude that this falls into the category as bad choices bringing even worse consequences.”

What? First, the defendant is not charged with fucking teen sluts while acting as a porn star. That conduct could well be consensual and legal.  Turley is also wrong that the judge could “legitimately” allow the jury to see his message. In both cases involving a defendant’s prejudicial tattoos, the judges agreed that they had to be made invisible, in one case using make-up…

…(Nice job! ) and in the other, by allowing the defendant to have the tattoo…this one…

…removed before trial.

3. The blog has recently, a couple of times,  discussed the tyranny of the minority involved when citizens with disabilities abuse the (overly broad) Americans With Disabilities Act. This unethical conduct is frequently aided and abetted by leftist judges who warp the words “reasonable accommodations” to cater to plaintiffs who believe all of society must pay to mitigate their individual misfortunes.

This is a particularly indefensible example of this social malady: the Philadelphia-based 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals gave Paul McGann, who can neither see not hear, a chance to show that movie theaters must provide him with a “tactile interpreter” under the ADA.  McGann says he “experiences” movies by touching the hands of a sign-language interpreter who “describes” the film to him in the theater. When he  demanded that the Cinemark movie chain provide two such interpreters at a cost of $50 to $65 an hour. so he could “watch” “Gone Girl.” at his usual theater, he was told “no.”

He sued, and a federal judge had ruled that a tactile interpreter is a special auxiliary service that is not required by the ADA. The 3rd Circuit reversed in its opinion, holding that tactile interpreters are covered, and remanded for a determination of whether  accommodation would pose an undue burden the movie chain in the country.

This is nonsense. A movie consists of visual images and sound; a sightless, deaf person cannot “experience” one. Why couldn’t he read a description of the film, shot for shot, in his home? What’s the difference to him? The case should have been tossed, for good, at the earliest possible stage. Suing to make company pay so he can pretend to be watching a movie is unethical.

4. Mr. Bumble,  scripted by Charles Dickens in “Oliver Twist”,  famously said that “the law is a ass.” Here’s one Bumble would like: the Indiana Supreme Court has ruled that it is against the law for an adult to send a sexually explicit photo to a consenting youth under the age of 18, while it is legal for that adult to have physical sexual relations with a 16-year-old.

Sameer Girish Thakar was prosecuted in 2014 for allegedly sending a photo of his erect penis to a 16-year-old girl in Oregon  under an Indiana  law barring dissemination of matter harmful to minors. In  the decision , the court rejected his argument that since the girl could legally view his penis live, up close and personal as part of consensual sexual activity, state law should allow him to send a photo of it.

The state’s high court cited the plain language of the statute and rejected Thakar’s clainm of inconsistency, saying,

“To baldly assert that for a 16-year-old girl consensual sex is equivalent to the abrupt appearance of an erect penis on her computer is nothing more than a policy determination, and it is not the place of our court to usurp that role from our General Assembly.”

I know I sure hate it when an erect penis appears on my computer.

The court is right that this is a case of incompetent lawmaking, and not the judiciary’s job to address. Still,Thakar’s case seems like a prime candidate for jury nullification. If “adult” for the purposes of sexual activity now includes 16-year-olds in Indiana, the state should remove anyone over 16 from the “minors’ category in the law Thakar allegedly violated.

5. Finally, it makes me feel better that the Washington D.C. bar isn’t the only one that thinks armed robbers can make trustworthy lawyers. Now Connecticut has licensed Reginald Dwayne Betts to practice law, finding him of sufficient good character after he spent eight years in prison.  A Yale Law grad, Betts was involved in an armed robbery and carjacking at a Northern Virginia shopping mall.

Maybe Georgetown University Law Center can hire him as a professor too!

OK, that was unfair to Betts, if not to Georgetown. Unlike the case of Shon Hopwood, a member of the D.C. Bar and a tenure-track faculty member at the Georgetown University Law Center, Betts didn’t commit his felonies as an adult. Since he was a juvenile offender, I am willing to give Connecticut the benefit of the doubt, and Reginald as well.

14 thoughts on “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/18/2017: Welcome To My World! Special Legal Follies Edition

  1. # 1 One of the stanzas to “Good Morning Sunshine” (brings back a lot of early teen memories!) makes infinitely more sense than the idea that Roy Moore is fit for the U.S. Senate.

    Gliddy glub gloopy, nibby nabby noopy la, la, la, lo, lo
    Sabba sibby sabba, nooby abba nabba, le, le, lo, lo
    Tooby ooby walla, nooby abba naba

    # 2 Might we fairly assume that the ‘eye’ tattoo specialist was off the day the talented Mr. Wilson chose get inked?

      • ” He’s a theocrat, a fanatic, a bigot and a demagogue. The Republican Party should endorse his opposition and campaign against Moore. ”

        Why? The Alabama GOP base wants someone exactly like that not just as their senator, but as every senator.

        You’re making unreasonable demands – that the Alabama GOP cease being the Alabama GOP.

        He’s also no worse than many of the administration’s nominations for Federal courts. Not as bad as at least one, Jeff Mateer.

        • Mateer is not as bad. I can see why you would say so, but he’s just an anti-trans, anti LGTB bigot. Moore is all of that, plus a religious fanatic, an autocrat, a de-robed judge, and a nut.

          And the party, any party, has an obligation not to to just win elections, but to win them with competent, trustworthy public servants.

          Remember, I maintained that the GOP had an obligation to deny Trump the chance to run as a Republican, and later the nomination. And I was right.

          • Re Mateer;

            Speaking at a conference at the University of St. Thomas in Houston in 2013, Mateer explains what he tells students about the separation of church and state:

            I’ll hold up my hundred-dollar bill and say, ‘for the first student who can cite me the provision in the Constitution that guarantees the separation of church and state verbatim, I’ll give this hundred dollar bill.’ … It’s not there. … The protections of the First Amendment protect us from government, not to cause government to persecute us because of our religious beliefs.

            There isn’t a hapenthworth of difference in religious fanaticism between Moore and Mateer.

            I will amend my first post though. At the time, I only had convincing proof of Moore being representative of the Alabama GOP.

            Now.. I can’t restrict it to just Alabama. Moore is the GOP and the GOP is Moore (and Mateer and….)

            Rand Paul (R-KY)
            ‘Judge Roy Moore has spent a lifetime defending and standing up for the Constitution while fighting for the people of Alabama. We need more people in Washington, D.C. that will stand on principle and defend the Constitution​. … I look forward to welcoming him to the Senate very soon,”

            Mike Lee (R-Utah)
            “If there was ever a time to ensure that Republicans maintain a seat in the United States Senate, it is now,​” Lee said. “That is why I am proudly endorsing Judge Roy Moore for United States Senate. Alabamians have the chance to send a proven, conservative fighter to the United States Senate and I am more than ready to welcome a trusted ally.”

            I know, neither Moore, Lee, Mateer or Paul are True Scotsman. And there’s a ton of Tu Quoque that would be appropriate, alas.

      • Observation: Videographers, these leastways, didn’t appear to have mandatory diversity quotas in 1969.

        I don’t know where the rest of you’s were (if you ”were” at all), but that year the 77 Square Miles Surrounded By A Sea Of Reality I called my hometown was anything BUT an endless loop of Peace, Love, & Happiness.

        The 1979 Oscar winning documentary “The War At Home” puts a finer point on it.

        I was pals with the son of one of the “stars,” Quaker Peace Activist Betty Boardman. We helped…um…launch a papier-mâché float for an Anti-ABM protest march from the State Capitol to the Library Mall.

        Before we had to take a bus back home to do our paper routes, we spent most of the time doing what most early-teen boys did back then, trying to solicit the attention of X-Chromosomal Units; unsuccessfully, I’m loathe to report.

  2. Regarding #2:
    It sounds like there are no motions in the case yet, as they are determining if Wilson is competent to stand trial first. That leaves this based on conjecture at this point. I’m presuming that defense counsel will advocate to the client that the tattoo be covered. If the defendant refuses, I’m sure the prosecutor will be happy to let him. If the defendant is willing to cover the tattoo with makeup, it seems crazy for the court to prohibit the use of makeup even if the prosecutor asks. After all, makeup is allowed in court.

    Fox News and the NY Post, for example, say, “The Cincinnati man has the words “I’m a pornstar” tattooed on his forehead” and “another vulgar message” tattooed below.” They were unwilling to use the relevant words in the article, yet tagged the story with OHIO, SEXUAL ASSAULTS, TATTOOS , WTF. “WTF” is vulgar… ironically because of one of the two words they refused to repeat in the article.

  3. The premise of #4 isn’t totally correct. The age of consent in Ohio may be 16, but the age of consent in Oregon is 18. Had he traveled to Oregon for a live viewing of his penis, he could be charged with sexual corruption of a minor. Had she traveled to Ohio, he is at risk from the Mann Act.

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