Ethics Lessons Of The Dallas Prosecutor-Uber Driver Confrontation

Dallas prosecutor Jody Warner was fired from her job in the Dallas District Attorney’s office for an ugly—and subtantially recorded—argument with an Uber driver.

“Although criminal charges have not been filed, her behavior is contrary to this office’s core principle of integrity, and it will not be tolerated,” the DA’s office said in a written statement. “As public servants, we represent the people of Dallas County and are examples of justice, professionalism, and ethical behavior both inside and outside of the courtroom.”

What happened?

Yikes.

Uber driver Shaun Platt said he picked up Warner, 32, at a Dallas bar. He knew pretty quickly that he had a drunk on his hands, as she yelled at friends out the window when she got in his car. Warner directed him to take a different route from the one his GPS suggested, and he got lost.

“I said, ‘Should I make a left up here?’ and she refused to answer me,” Platt said. “She said, ‘You can follow the fucking GPS’ and she became increasingly angry, even though I was just trying to get her home.” Warner continued berating him, and, he claims, slapped his shoulder. At that point, he pulled his car over, ended the Uber app, and ordered her out.

But the prosecutor refused, threatening that he was “never going to work again” and that she “knows people.”  “Who are they going to believe? I’m a district attorney,” Platt says she told him. (Unstated but understood: “And you’re just a dumb Uber driver!’) At that point he called 911 and started recording her comments on his cell phone.

Highlights:

  • “Oh, my God, you’re going to regret this so much.Just take me home, dude. … Either drop me off at my house, or we’ll wait for the cops because I’m not wrong.”
  • “You’re a fucking idiot.We’ll wait for the cops then if that’s what you think is appropriate.”
  • “Oh my God, you’re an idiot. You are a legitimate retard. I want to go home so badly but you’re so stupid I want the cops to come so that they can fuck you up, that’s what I want.”
  • “Dude, everything’s being reported.I’m an assistant district attorney so shut the fuck up.”
  • “I think this might be kidnapping right now, actually.”

After that statement, the non-lawyer Uber driver correctly made the salient legal point that since he had asked her to leave, and she was free to leave, “It’s not kidnapping, ma’am.”

She replied, “No, it is because there was an Uber that had a destination and you have not taken me to that destination. You’re holding me here, so please take me to that destination.”

Oh..huh?

Platt’s succinct and decisive retort to the kidnapping claim: “Ma’am, will you please leave my vehicle?”

“Under the law, it’s recklessly keeping me from where I was going, and you have done that,” she continued. “You’re kidnapping me. You’re committing a third- to first-degree felony, so do you want to take me home?”

Again Platt asked her to leave the car. This is an unusual request for a kidnapper.

When the police arrived, Platt thought he would be arrested.  Warner said, “‘I’m the DA” (actually, she was an assistant DA) and then spoke privately with an officer.   Apparently when her breath melted his badge and he realized she was drunk as a skunk, he put all the pieces together. “You good?”the officer asked Pratt.  “I guess so,” he replied.

The cop and Warner left in the police car.

Platt decided to post about the incident on Facebook, and his tale went viral. Plattdid not want Warner to lose her job, he says, but added…

“My only hope is that she learns from this and she apologizes”Some of the things she said off the record were belittling me for being a driver. She says I’m stupid and all these things, and it was way worse..She can’t treat people like that just because I’m not a doctor or a lawyer or someone she hangs around. I was very polite and sweet. If it wasn’t me, it would be the next person that she Ubers with…One of the main reasons I forgive her is I know she was intoxicated, that’s another reason — that’s no excuse to treat someone like that just because you’re intoxicated…I’m sure she’s a good person when she’s sober.” 

Now Sober and fired, Warner gave the statement and the apology you see in the video.

Ethics observations:

  • If the incident had been exactly the same and Warner’s statements were exactly the same, but Platt was black, Warner would be labeled a racist. Moreover, Platt would have been certain she was a racist.

This is a major societal problem.

  • Lawyers are told that when they become lawyers, they are lawyers, and represent the profession, every second of their lives. Warner breached her responsibility and duty not to bring embarrassment and distrust to the District Attorney’s office and the law.

That alone warranted, indeed demanded, her firing.

  • If your inner asshole has a tendency to escape and run amuck when you get drunk, then you have an ethical obligation not to drink to excess in public, or when you are likely to come in contact with innocent bystanders.

“I’m sure she’s a good person when she’s sober,”  isn’t a mitigation. She’s one person, not two, and accountable for when she isn’t a nice person, regardless of the reason. It still counts.

  • Incivility to strangers is signature significance for unethical tendencies. We know she wasn’t racist, but Warner was still inclined to be disrespectful to someone she barely knew.  He was a mere Uber driver, and thus not worthy of the social amenities she would extend to a peer. She was a lawyer, and she represented the state, giving her, she obviously thought, special privilege and power that entitled her to abuse Platt.

That’s not just the Margaritas talking.

  • Ethical lawyers hate lawyers who use their law degrees to make false legal claims to non-lawyers, like “This is kidnapping.” It’s an abuse of authority, and it makes the public wonder how much of what lawyers say is really BS.

They should wonder.

“A forced or compelled version of 1-4, in which the individual (or organization) apologizing may not sincerely believe that an apology is appropriate, but chooses to show the victim or victims of the act inspiring it that the individual responsible is humbling himself and being forced to admit wrongdoing by the society, the culture, legal authority, or an organization or group that the individual’s actions reflect upon or represent.”

She continues to dispute parts of the driver’s testimony; she attempt to inspire pity and sympathy; she uses her intoxication as an excuse, when being intoxicated in public is itself a breach of her duty. I don’t like the apology much. It is barely adequate.

Warner’s not going to hired by any firms or DA offices any time soon. It is unfortunate for one drunken rant to derail a career, but professionals must be held to high standards. I hope her fall will prevent other lawyers from falling into the many ethical traps she rushed into like a wino running into a streetlight.

___________________________________

Sources: ABC, Dallas News

 

 

25 Comments

Filed under Business & Commercial, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Etiquette and manners, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions, Workplace

25 responses to “Ethics Lessons Of The Dallas Prosecutor-Uber Driver Confrontation

  1. La Sylphide

    “That’s not who I am.”

    Yes, sweetheart, yes it is.

    • The Wednesday Woman

      As today’s wisdom generally goes, drinking makes you *more* you.

      • La Sylphide

        I’ll be the first to throw up my hand and admit that I have engaged in behavior for which I am not at all proud. But I never once said “that’s not who I am”. Hell yes, it was who I was. And it was ill behaved and shameful. I hope that I have conducted myself in a manner going forward that reflects my understanding and ownership of my bad behavior, my introspection and remorse, and my desire to make things right.

        And in response to Michael R.’s comment: I firmly believe in redemption.

  2. Michael R.

    I do wonder what we should do with people like this. There are an awful lot of them and if they can’t work, what, as a society, do we do with them? A similar thought hit me years ago during the military’s ‘blood pinning’ scandal. Lots of people were arguing that we shouldn’t allow violent people in the military. Where should they work, then? Daycares? Where should people like this woman (or the woman in NYC who did the same thing) go to work after nationwide coverage has made them unemployable? I honestly don’t know who deserves to work with people like this on a day-to-day basis (other than some of my elected officials).

  3. Mark

    En vino, Veritas.

  4. Other Bill

    I bet she’s a piece of work even when she’s sober. The entire episode is signature significance. Judging from the video, she could probably get work as an actress on a soap.

    One other lesson perhaps worth mentioning: People can video or record any and everything. Assume everything you say and do will be placed on the internet (much worse than the front page of the NYT).

  5. John Billingsley

    “He was a mere Uber driver, and thus not worthy of the social amenities she would extend to a peer.”

    I have had to interview many people who as they said “went off” on someone, usually family or a person who just said or did something that annoyed them. They often complain of not being able to control their anger. I always ask them something along the lines of so what does your boss or supervisor say when this happens at work? The reply is very often something like are you nuts? I wouldn’t do that at work, I would get fired. Ah, not really an inability to control anger problem then. More of a respecting other people and not acting like a jackass problem.

    • Other Bill

      Anyone who doesn’t treat their supposed “lessers” as equals is reprehensible. It’s the one, single, simple thing all of us can do to make the world a little bit better place with absolutely no effort.

  6. Ash

    I find her throwing her DA position around horrendous.

    Should her past cases be investigated to see if she was abusive or coercive or unethical?

    Is there any reason she could be, or should be disbarred?

    That Uber driver though. I want someone with his patience, tolerance and clear thinking whispering in my ear.

    • Other Bill

      Her discussion with the driver would have been great for a noir film scene with Humphrey Bogart as the driver.

      “Do you know who I am?”

      “Sorry sweetheart. No I don’t. Until just now I don’t believe I’ve ever had the pleasure.”

      And so forth.

  7. JP

    I saw her tell her side of the story. Looks like she is jumping on the Weinstein trainwreck.

  8. Chris marschner

    One the first observation of if Platt was black he would have considered Warner a racist. All things being equal, given the driver’s statements after the fact I see no evidence to support that claim.

    However, I would agree that those who wish to use racial polarization to advance their parochial interests would try to exploit the situation.

    • How would those comments tell us anything? If he were black, he would see the situation as something completely different, through different filters.

      • Chris marschner

        I am just not assuming that all blacks see racism in simply assinine behavior. Filters are those we install upon ourselves.

        • Chris marschner

          Followup: I was just rejecting the absolute term would. Had you used, “could”, “be likely to” or other less absolute term my comment would hold no water. To me filters are merely biases through which we view all events. I won’t presume a bias until it manifests itself. Otherwise it shows my biases.

        • It is pretty apparent that the official position of the civil rights establishment and the main voices of influence in the black community that all negative inter-reactions with American society and institutions as well as with non-African American individuals is rooted in racism. If a white cop shoots a black man charging him after he had tried to take the cop’s gun, the cop is presumptively racist. If a black man does not get a contract, a job, a promotion, the predominant message of the culture is that he should suspect or presume racism. The President of the United States uses a common description of a dead soldier’s bravery–“he knew what he was signing up for”—and it is eagerly taken as a sign of disrespect based on racism. For eight years, blacks were told, repeatedly, that criticism of Barack Obama’s (objectively incompetent) performance as President was racially biased. There are so, so many examples of this that I have chronicled, an I have covered a tiny percentage.

          I threw that statement in because it is frightening, depressing, and true, and I hoped it would cause some discussion, because I don’t hear that fact, and it is a fact, admitted enough. I also concluded long ago that this toxic filter is one of the greatest handicaps society has hobbled its black citizens with.

          • Chris marschner

            Jack
            Did you see the 2nd paragraph of my intial comment? What you just stated was what I was trying to state. Perhaps I misunderstood your statement that Platt himself, if black, would deem it to be racially motivated. I don’t know Platt so I did not wish to lump him into those who cry racism for every negative event between members of different races. If I had, then I would have to say all blacks see racism in every event that does not go their way. I can’t make that statement.

            • Platt, if black, would not be thinking like White Platt. Nor would be be so willing to be sympathetic to a blonde, privileged representative of a racist justice system who treated him like shit on her shoe.

              Not every event. But I believe it always is part of their thought process. A have a rude waitress, and I think she’s rude. A black man has a rude white waitress, and he will wonder: is she just rude, or is she treating me like this because I’m black?

              • Chris marschner

                I accept your POV and would not wager against it. I just believe that the filters you speak of cannot be attributed to every member of a particular group. If we begin to accept the premise that all people view others of a different race think alike then we play right into the hands of race baiters whether they are Asian, Black, or White. That is why polarization is accelerating. I just assume nothing until it is demonstrated

          • Chris marschner

            I am in complete agreement with your above statement.

  9. Matthew B

    You left an item off your list Jack. She’s using her position in the DA’s office in an attempt to intimidate someone for personal gain. The rest of the items are merely assholery; this one item is criminal.

    Not that I suggest any more pounds of flesh be extracted from her. She’s paid dearly and will continue to pay dearly for this idiocy in the day and age of social media. Anyone ever googling her name will stumble on this incident.

    • Eternal optometrist

      Throwing around your job and position, even in polite conversation, makes you a boor. Using it to harass and belittle someone is inexcusable.

  10. Jeff

    Uber does not (indeed, could not, and maintain a working business model) pay enough for me to drive drunks around in my own car after the bars close… This Platt fellow has the patience of a saint.

    If one lives in a one-party-consent state, I think it might be wise for ride-share drivers to invest in a pocket audio recorder and just leave it running for their whole shift, erasing the recording at the end of the day if there were no incidents for which one might need to preserve evidence.

    For that matter, just a small sign in the car indicating that everything is being recorded “for security and safety” (even if not true) would probably go a long way to encourage civil behavior, at least among the sober.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s