Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/6/2018: The “Too Sick To Come Up With A Good Headline” Edition

He’s lucky: he has hair...

Good Morning!

1 A solution to a perpetual problem. I do the mandatory introduction to legal ethics for two jurisdictions. Both are early in the morning,and both have courts monitoring them, insisting that to get credit, attendees must be present for every second of the course. The problem: late arrivals. One of my jurisdictions had a tendency to let late-comers in if it’s just a few minutes, but sometimes it gets ridiculous. Once the line is blurred, when does it get hard again? I have sen the administrators tell a lawyer that she is absolutely the last one who will get a break, only to see another late comer burst through the door panicked, upset, and with a doozy of an excuse…and then another, and another. This is especially ironic because lawyers are ethically required to be on time to court, or else.

In my other jurisdiction, they deal with the problem by absolute enforcement. 30 seconds late, and you have to come back next month. It doesn’t matter why, it doesn’t matter where the lawyer came from (one had flown in from Seoul and was two minutes late). If you arrive after the doors are closed at 9 am sharp, you can’t get credit. This, as you might imagine, often sparks tantrums, tears, threats, and “Do you know who I am?” One furious attendee actually cast a curse on every bar employee in sight. I’m talking about a real curse, right out of the movies, pointing and chanting. Some months we have had more than ten latecomers in the lobby, acting like an angry mob, and threatening a riot.

This jurisdiction has solved the problem by recently telling all who need the course on the bar website and  in email messages that the program begins at 8:30 am, when it really doesn’t. In other words, the solution is a lie: if someone arrives at 8:59, there’s no problem.

Is this ethical?

2. Oh, this was obviously going to be an ethics rain wreck long ago. AG Sessions announced that the Justice Department would not be following the Obama Administration’s policy regarding federal anti-pot laws—which is to say, it would not signal that it wouldn’t enforce the law. As a result,  Corey Gardner, Republican Senator from happily stoned Colorado, announced that he would block any appointments to Justice until the Department charged with enforcing laws agrees to stop enforcing laws. What Sessions did is not the draconian reversal it has been represented as by the Angry Trump Hate Mob, Stoner Chapter. Read the order from Sessions here.

Never mind. Following the lead of California, which has officially announced that it will encourage breaches of the immigration laws, now Colorado wants to impede the functioning of national law enforcement to force the federal government to let another state veto drug laws. This is what we call “a dangerous and irresponsible trend.”

3.  The Tragedy of Joanie Cunnningham. The New York Times Magazine ended the year with biographical sketches, including the sad story of Erin Moran, aka Joanie Cunningham on “Happy Days,” who died of cancer in 2017. It’s an all-too-typical story of a child star with a dysfunctional family who grew up on a set without ever receiving the parenting and support she needed to be able to become a functioning adult. I knew about Moran’s problems after the show ended; I did not know that her bitterness about her fellow cast members stemmed from her feelings as a child that her TV family was a substitute her real family, and that they failed her. Of course, the Cunninghams, Fonzie, Ralph and Potsie had no duty to become Moran’s surrogate family, but I am not surprised that a child actor would feel this way, especially one who was  being neglected and mistreated at home the way Erin Moran apparently was. Interestingly, child actor advocate Paul Petersen has said that his TV mom and dad, Donna Reed and Carl Betz, did act as his surrogate parents in important and beneficial ways.

I continue to believe that using child performers before the age of informed consent is unethical.

4. This is not the way to have discussions. For the third time in four sessions, a woman approached me about my presentation of an ethics issue involving a law firm client’s biases, subjected me to an angry monologue about how my orientation was sexist and insensitive, then turned her back on me and walked away when I tried to respond. I don’t know who is teaching women to discuss issues like this, but it’s not civil, ethical or effective.

5. Back to Plan E! Now that Plan J is pretty much a non-starter, even though the Democrats sacrificed poor Al Franken to it like he was a virgin and it was a volcano, it is amusing to see a new pass at that old, dumb favorite, Plan E. We are talking about the various schemes to remove Trump as President without having to defeat him in a, you know, election, like the Constitution requires. To review the list:

Plan A was to reverse the election by hijacking the Electoral College.[Status: FAILED and DEAD]

Plan B was pre-emptive impeachment.  [Status: FAILED and DEAD]

Plan C was the Emoluments Clause. [Status: DEAD]

Plan D was “collusion with Russia” [ DESPERATE but still twitching]  ,

Plan E is ”Trump is mentally ill so this should trigger the 25th Amendment.” [ Status: Ever green!]

Plan F, or “the Maxine Waters plan”  is to just impeach the President as soon as Democrats control both Houses, because the can. [Status: Hope springs eternal]

Plan G is “The President obstructed justice by firing incompetent subordinates, and that’s impeachable.” [Status: LAME, but ONGOING]

Plan H is “tweeting stupid stuff is impeachable” [Status: ONGOING]

Plan I is “Let’s relentlessly harass him and insult him and obstruct his efforts to do his job so he snaps  and does something really impeachable.” [Status: ONGOING]

Plan J is to force Trump’s resignation based on alleged sexual misconduct that predated his candidacy. .[Status: FAILED and DEAD]

In addition to the dud that was Plan J, the new reliance on Plan E arises from the accounts in “Fire and Fury”, even though even the author acknowledges that much of the book is fiction, and faux horror over Trump’s dumb “button” tweet.

Regarding the latter, that jokey jibe was completely consistent with how the President spoke and conducted himself long before becoming President. The 25th Amendment was designed for Presidents who become disabled in office, not for political foes to use to argue that they never should have been elected in the first place. There is no evidence, and certainly not that tweet, that President Trump is either better (more’s the pity) or worse than the man American elected to lead it. The ongoing disgrace of a major party refusing to accept the results of that election and trying schemes and false narratives to try to overturn it more than a year later, however, shows that party to be considerably less trustworthy and ethical than even its adversaries believed.


24 thoughts on “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/6/2018: The “Too Sick To Come Up With A Good Headline” Edition

  1. 1- Back in the day, we had manager’s meetings every Monday morning @07:45 a.m. Repeat offenders (not including your’s truly) caused the Branch Manager to begin locking the door @07:45 a.m. SHARP.

    It was no longer a problem soon thereafter.

    Off topic, but 15 years ago yesterday, the Boston Globe Magazine showed absolutely staggering chutzpah. (H/T

    Charles Pierce 01/05/2003: ”If she had lived, Mary Jo Kopechne would be 62 years old. Through his tireless work as a legislator, Edward Kennedy would have brought comfort to her in her old age.”

    Yeah, what might have been if he hadn’t let her drown.

  2. No 1 Lateness

    Is it ethical for a jurisdiction to lie about the true time of an ethics seminar to avoid whiny lawyers who can’t be bothered to be on time?

    Are you serious?

    No. 2: Cory Gardner

    So McConnell should end the blue-slip process for DOJ nominees like he did for federal judges. Abuse, you lose. Gardner’s abuse of the process is exactly why Democrats can’t be trusted with it. Probably not Republicans, either.

    No. 3. Joanie:

    Tragic, but predictable. Perhaps you’re right.

    No. 4. Client biases:

    The answer to your question: Facebook, Twitter, her university, #Resist.

    No. 5. Plan E:

    The ongoing disgrace of a major party refusing to accept the results of that election and trying schemes and false narratives to try to overturn it more than a year later, however, shows that party to be considerably less trustworthy and ethical than even its adversaries believed.

    How do the Democrats imagine that when the shoe is on the other foot, the Republicans will behave any better? What we are seeing now is the shape of politics for … maybe forever? Until the next war? Until the next 9-11?

    I don’t know.

  3. #1 – Unethical – I would arrive at 8:15 and expect to wait for 15 minutes for the program to begin. Under the described scenario, I would have to wait for 45 minutes so that the irresponsible attendees could finish their lattes and show up.

    • I would be sitting there with philk57 waiting for the start time. We would probably be talking about where the heck everyone else was. When I had to take my board exams, I went to the site a day ahead of time and scouted it out. The problem I see with accepting someone after the start time is that you have now established that that wasn’t really the no kidding start time. Once you have done that, how can you ethically refuse anyone admission?
      If you lie about the start time, well, you’ve told a lie and that would be an unethical way to start an ethics seminar.

  4. 1. My suggestion for the late lawyers is to allow them in but not give them the professional education credit (of course making this policy clear in advance). This way latecomers get one, or maybe two ethics lessons, and there is no need for arguments at the door. Oh, and it is unethical to lie about the start time of course.

    4. Maybe you can include a segment early on in your seminars about discourse ethics and the need to base an argument on facts, logic, and in court, the law too.

  5. From an immediately practical standpoint, lying seems to be effective. Humans tend to assume that their plans will take less time than they actually do, so including a factor of safety that they may not include themselves is a valid solution, if the only objective is punctuality. Well, it’s valid until everyone catches on that events start a half hour later, and plan accordingly.

    From a long-term societal perspective, though, lying only enables people to get away with failing to learn the important meta-skill of strategy mindset. The world isn’t obligated to work exactly how we expect it to. People aren’t entitled to have their plans work as intended. Strategy mindset entails putting a bit more resources and effort into a plan to close off possibilities of failure. The effort to ensure a trip succeeds may take the form of leaving early, identifying alternate routes, or bringing tools to solve problems along the way.

    To me, a person expecting that others make exceptions to a strict rule for them because they didn’t add in their own factor of safety to their arrival time is like a person expecting all text to be read aloud to them because they never learned to read. Reading may not be natural, but the world is a much better place if everyone who physically can do so decides to learn.

    If a lawyer expects that the world will accommodate their failure to plan for contingencies simply because of the high level of other skills involved in their occupation, then they aren’t mature enough to be a professional.

    • Does any programming begin at 8:30?

      A city near me has a ban on overnight parking, but a program to register for temporary exceptions (short term guests, repaving driveway, etc). Maybe a similar process could be adapted to accommodate a few late arrivals with mitigating circumstances.

        • What about putting a half hour or hour on the back end? Punctual arrivals may leave. Late arrivals must stay. And make the last half hour painful (forced audience participation?).

  6. 1. Back when I headed up an Armed Forces Examining Station, one recruiter (in an all-service meeting) pleaded for, oh, maybe 15 minutes, slack time for the start of the aptitude test. He said the door was locked if they were just a few minutes late, and it was really, really tough to get prospective recruits up on time to get to the test session.
    I asked the reps from the other branches if the start time was a problem for them. All said, No.
    So, I decreed then and there that the test start time was 8:45 for the Army, and 9:00 for everyone else. I also directed the test examiners to look out the door just before starting to see if anyone was coming down the hall. No problems after that.
    And no lies, either, because everyone understood the deal. Lying, as described above for one jurisdiction, would be unethical, and ultimately counter-productive.

  7. Lying about the start time of the class is not exactly a gigantic ethics problem, and it’s a common bit of social engineering. Often it’s in the form of an introductory presentation, a meet-and-greet, or a cocktail hour (for more social occasions) to disguise that it’s really offered as a face-saving courtesy for late arrivals, and to make it tolerable for people who arrive on time.

    On the other hand, the mandatory nature of the classes changes things. Telling people they must show up at a certain time and then not starting for 30 minutes is a waste of their time, which is at least a bit unethical. (Although it probably prepares them for dealing with court scheduling, but that’s another matter.) Another problem is person who runs a little late, gets there at 8:35 and decides not to bother going in because they were told they would be turned away. Yes, technically, they failed to meet the requirement, but the requirement was a lie, and that’s unethical too.

    On the other, other hand, it keeps the system moving, and that’s probably worth something…

  8. 5. I see Plan K forming. Headline in this morning’s paper spoke of Iran’s rulers getting to the “roots” of the protests there. Now, we all KNOW what that means: the conclusion will be that the protests occurred because of AMERICAN MEDDLING, which makes it mandatory to IMPEACH TRUMP.

  9. OK…I’m a “Never Trump,” but I am now 100% convinced that the vast majority of Democrats in Congress would risk our economy and foreign policy if it would negatively impact Trump.

    In the last few months I have become rather supportive of the foreign policy and as far as the economy – tought to put a negative spin on it.

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