Mid-Day Ethics Warm-Up, 1/5/2021: Zombie Lawyers! Imaginary News! Dead Ethics Alarms! Wrong Numbers!


1. The Florida Bar, protecting us all against unethical zombie lawyers...Last month, the Florida Supreme Court approved that Florida Bar’s decision to disbar Sabrina Starr Spradley, a 41-year-old attorney in private practice in Delray Beach, Florida. She died more than a year ago. The rules do not require another attorney or family member to tell the bar when a lawyer being disciplined has died, so poor Sabrina had to suffer the post mortem indignity of being labeled an unethical lawyer.

“We do have 108,000 lawyers in Florida,” a Florida Bar spokesperson explained. “There are a lot of individuals that we regulate. We rely on people to inform us.”

Why? How hard is it to routinely check the obituaries before wasting the Supreme Court’s time?

2. For the fake news Hall of Fame. Because President Trump is “reportedly” (whatever that means) “considering” flying to Scotland instead of attending Joe Biden’s inauguration on January 20, the Independent reports that Scotland won’t allow him in, because it wouldn’t be “essential” travel. Can a news headline (“Trump not allowed into Scotland to escape Biden inauguration, Sturgeon warns” ) be built on fewer facts than this?

Incidentally, there’s no law requiring an outgoing President to attend the inauguration of a President, and if Trump declines to do so, he would not be the first. He’d be the fourth, following John Adams, John Quincy Adams, and Andrew Johnson. A gracious transfer of power is always in the best interest of the nation, and Trump would do himself a favor if he just sucked it up and pretended to be a statesman. I doubt that he will.

3. Tales of dead ethics alarms! Phyllis McGuire, the lead singer in the iconic 50’s trio The McGuire Sisters (“Sincerely”), died this week, reviving memories of her epic ethics alarm malfunction. At the worst possible time, just as the group was battling for its professional life as musical tastes were moving away from Lawrence Welk and Mitch Miller to “Shindig” and “Hullabaloo,” Phyllis shattered her sisters’ carefully maintained wholesome image…

McGuire Sisisters

… by being revealed in 1965 as the girlfriend of Sam Giancana, an infamous Chicago mobster. The couple had been followed by federal agents for several years, and eventually were called before appeared before a grand jury. Sam refused to answer questions and was jailed for contempt. She testified that she had met him in Las Vegas in 1961, traveled with him to Europe, the Caribbean and elsewhere and accepted his gifts in a continuing relationship. She was, she said, aware that he was a reputed gangster, she said, but insisted that she knew nothing of his underworld activities.

Right. This is a perfect example of contrived ignorance, or wilful blindness. McGuire knew she was endangering not only her career but her sisters’ as well. Indeed, the act was dead withing three years of McGuire’s outing as mob moll. Phyllis continued to rationalize her relationship with Giancana to the bitter end ( he was assassinated in 1975). “Sam was the greatest teacher I ever could have had,” she told Dominick Dunne in a 1989 interview published in Vanity. “He was so wise about so many things.”

4. Facepalm...Two days ago, the Trump campaign asked its 4.6 million followers on social media to call two Michigan state lawmakers and demand that they vote to decertify President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in the state. It posted the phone numbers and emails for Michigan state Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey and former Michigan House speaker Lee Chatfield, both Republicans. Then President Trump shared the post to his more than 35 million followers.

Not only had the campaign erroneously identified Chatfield as the current speaker, it also gave out the wrong number for him.

And so it was that a 28-year-old disabled Michigan man was bombarded with thousands of angry phone calls. He’s giving up his current cell phone number. The victim said (the Times article says he prefers “they”—I won’t call a single human being “they’ even when I’m hanging from my heels in the public square) that the President’s campaign should have taken the time to double-check the numbers before posting them online.

I’s say that’s a fair assessment.

20 thoughts on “Mid-Day Ethics Warm-Up, 1/5/2021: Zombie Lawyers! Imaginary News! Dead Ethics Alarms! Wrong Numbers!

  1. 3. Years ago, and for years, a friend would chat up Phyllis McGuire at a no longer extant Italian restaurant in Scottsdale, AZ. It must have been a mob place. Phoenix and Tucson are both open cities, as far as I know. Anyone can vacation here and dabble in some felonious behavior without infringing on anyone else’s territory, I think because everyone enjoys the winter weather. A few years ago I watched a documentary about Sam. He was evidently more a money guy and very smooth and stayed away from the enforcement side of things. Who knows, Phyllis could have really been kept in the dark, other than knowing Sam was a mobster.

  2. Re: No. 4; Faces against the Wall.

    From the story:

    “I was scared,” said O Rose, who uses they/them pronouns and asked to withhold their full first name for safety reasons. “I thought I got doxed.”

    Why was the pronoun usage information included in the story? It is meaningless detail. Would the story be more outrageous if O Rose had been a woman (wimin?), a man, an aardvark, or an extraterrestrial? What possible relevance could that have to what happened? Is this what we should expect in future news reports?


    • Is this what we should expect in future news reports?

      Of course, John. This is relevant because this is a wonderful, woke person who’s been doxed, not just an ordinary, and therefore suspect, heterosexual. It makes the offense a virtual hate crime.

  3. On point 2
    Statesman do things for the benefit of the country. I think he has done that.

    I see no reason for him to prostrate himself before the AUC to demonstrate statesmanship.

    I have very little use for the political classes whose lofty rhetoric about truth justice and the American way is merely a tool to placate the masses. Most of these people are as narcissistic and self serving as they claim Trump to be. I can wholeheartedly agree that Trump is no statesman but neither are his adversaries. Most of them would throw a constituent under the bus if it meant getting two votes for the one lost. I don’t think that of Trump.

    I believe hes has no obligation to Biden, Democrats and many Republicans in Congress or the Judiciary to show up on inauguration day. What respect have any of them shown to him or the office. Where have been the statesman like qualities from Biden’s team, Pelosi, Schumer, Hoyer or Cardin? Besides from what I hear the parade will be a virtual one.

    I would approve if he left with giving the BS artists in DC the bird. Screw ‘ em.

  4. A gracious transfer of power is always in the best interest of the nation, and Trump would do himself a favor if he just sucked it up and pretended to be a statesman.

    Not in this case.

    I shall quote your blog post.


    This blog recognized what was going on in general , if not all its specifics: hence the stuffed 2016 Post Election Ethics Train Wreck, still crazy after all these years. I knew the FBI and the deep state ein the Justice Department were part of the plot, as well as the Clinton campaign. I did not suspect that Barack Obama himself was involved until recently—Biden too, of course. That was my confirmation bias: much as I believe Obama was a destructive and wrongfully admired POTUS, I do not want to think holders of the highest office in the land actively work to pervert democracy.

    We should not be gracious to those who perverted democracy; instead, we should give them, to quote the film Joker, what they “fucking deserve”.

    • It pains me to read so many opinions like this.

      The best advice I ever got from my father—and that’s saying a lot—when he said, “I’ve been fired a lot, Jack, and here’s how you handle it, no matter how badly you were abused or screwed. Walk into the boss’s office, put out your hand, and say, “It’s been a privilege working with you. Thanks. I wish you and the organization nothing but the best.” First, it’s the classy move. Second, it doesn’t burn any bridges. Third, it makes you a legend. And Fourth, it drives them CRAZY.”

  5. #2: Trump owns properties in Scotland. I’d like to see them making the case that a significant business owner tending to his holdings is not “essential”.

    #4: Not relevant in this particular case, but I’ve that “they” is generally now acceptable in situations where the gender is unknown, rather than repeated usage of “he or she” with every reference. In a way, a bit like how “you” is now employed in place of “one” being often considered too stilted a convention for casual use.

    • Unfortunately we have no gender neutral words for individuals. The word they denotes more than one and is therefore grammatically incorrect. I would think that with all the supposed brainpower at Miriam Webster they should be able to come up with a better term. How about “heh” or “hie”?

  6. Hi Jack. This comment has nothing to do with your post. I sent you an email last night from my Gmail account. Hope you got it.

  7. Regarding number 1 – I’m kind of torn. On the one hand, I get where you’re coming from, that this was clearly a waste of the court’s time, and probably shouldn’t have happened on that basis.

    On the other hand, the indignity of being called an unethical lawyer that you mentioned – if whatever they were looking at disciplining her for was bad enough to warrant her disbarment (given how rarely bar associations seem to actually do that), why should the fact that she died before the decision was finalized be a cause to protect her name? Are we going to refrain from passing judgement on the conduct of someone, simply because they happen to have died before we got around to learning about it?

      • I think it’s E.R. 2,378.B.3. that requires deceased lawyers to advise the bar and all their clients of their current status within thirty days of their death.

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