Ethics Dunce: Ty Cobb (No, This Is NOT A Baseball Post)

That stylish-looking gentleman above is Ty Cobb III, a descendant of the iconic baseball player, himself a rather infamous ethics dunce. I never quite figured out Ty III’s relationship to Ty the First, but that is neither here nor there. I wish I didn’t have to write this post: I know Ty a bit, for we were in the same class at Harvard (where he already was sporting that handlebar mustache), and I knew many of his friends a lot better than I knew him. He is a nice guy, a funny guy, and by all accounts a terrific lawyer. He may have been the best lawyer ever associated with Donald Trump: Ty joined the White House staff to manage legal matters surrounding the Mueller investigation—yes, the Russian collusion scam run by the Democrats, the FBI, and the news media. He reported directly to Trump, and he was extensively quoted during the media frenzy over that disgusting set-up.

On May 2, 2018, Cobb announced that he was retiring as White House special counsel, and later that year, said that he did not think the Mueller investigation was a “witch hunt,” later saying in an ABC News interview on March 5, 2019, that he thought Mueller was “an American hero.” I almost blew my ethics whistle then; I didn’t: I should have. As a lawyer the public identified with President Trump (though his client was the office, not the man), Ty’s apparent vouching for the investigation was bound to be taken by the public (and certainly the news media) as a hint that someone on the inside with legal expertise knew Trump was guilty. I know I looked at it that way.

Now he’s done it again. Cobb told the news media that the “feds are coming fast” for Trump, and predicted that the investigation into the his alleged mishandling of classified documents will land him in prison. Spewing his opinions like an oil gusher, Cobb said,

“I would not necessarily expand the case to try to prove the Espionage Act piece of it because there is so much evidence of guilty knowledge on the espionage piece that all they really have to do is show that Trump moved these documents at various times when DOJ was either demanding them or actually present, that he filed falsely with the Justice Department, had his lawyers file falsely with the Justice Department, an affidavit to the effect that none existed—which was shattered by the documents that they then discovered after the search—and the many other misrepresentations that he and others have made on his behalf with regard to his possession of classified documents…” 

Ty called it a “tight case” and said unequivocally that Trump “will go to jail,” because of it, adding that Trump is continually “lying” about the law.”

Not cool. Ty’s observations are, again, given special weight because he is perceived as a Trump lawyer who was privy to confidential statements made by Trump (or statements made by Trump that Trump assumed were confidential). This why his most recent outbursts of gratuitous opinions were embraced by the anti-Trump media like Salon, which pointedly called Cobb a “Trump attorney.”

I want to make this very clear: Cobb shooting off his mouth like this is not, probably, a formal legal ethics violation. His opinions are not confidences and do not reveal confidential information. He can volunteer negative information about Trump, but he shouldn’t. This is a legal ethics gray area, one where the lawyer’s own judgment is given the benefit of the doubt, but it is too close to the line. Other Trump lawyers have, in the past, made public statements denigrating their former client; I’ve written about a few of them, and the Ethics Alarms verdict is always the same. For a former attorney that either was representing an individual or the public perceives as representing him (ask any non-lawyer to explain the distinction from being Trump’s lawyer and a White House lawyer while Trump was President) to give critical assessments of that individual is a breach of trust and loyalty. It’s wrong. It won’t be punished by any bar association, but it is still wrong. The conduct undermines public trust in lawyers. It violates the spirit of the ethics rules, though not the letter.

But after all, it’s Donald Trump, and he deserves it, right?

Normally I would run my take on this issue by the association of legal ethics lawyers that I pay dues to every year. But 95% of the membership is Trump-Deranged; I know what the reaction would be.

And what about my loyalty toward a old college classmate who has never been anything but friendly to me? Well, that’s what kept me from writing this post in 2018, and if any news media had the integrity or the competence to raise the matter, I’d leave it to others. Unfortunately, almost all legal ethics experts hate Trump and their bias has made them stupid as well as unethical, while the news media is smacking its lips in anticipation of finally “getting” Trump, so nobody is going to point out Ty Cobb’s ethical breach—not quite a rules violation, but still wrong—if I don’t.

So I am.

Sorry, Ty.

13 thoughts on “Ethics Dunce: Ty Cobb (No, This Is NOT A Baseball Post)

  1. Why can’t lawyers these days just keep their damned mouths SHUT about their clients and former clients? What is wrong with them? Is there something in the water in the Northeast? The entire region is nothing but a snotty, insufferably smug and self-content, gossip fest. Assholes.

  2. Good for you.

    I have to say here, though, that that mustache (wax and all) , would have tipped me off immediately that the man wearing it must be an egotist of great measure, else how could he take it out in public? And logically, that his opinions would reflect that egotism and self-centeredness, and should be viewed within that frame.

  3. Why can’t people like Cobb simply remember the Golden Rule? If they did, they would never do this.

    I guess anything that makes you more famous (and perhaps more money) doesn’t get subjected to the Golden Rule anymore. Just ask the Tik-Tok and Instaplotz “influencers.”

  4. Back in 2016, I wrote a song parody about an earlier Trump attorney who wrote an ope-ed about what a creep he was. This was for a legal ethics class, one of my musical seminars called “Legal Ethics Cabaret.” It was set to the Cole Porter song “I Hate Men” from “Kiss Ne Kate.” Here it is…

    1. I hate Trump!

    He makes me want to buy a stomach pump.

    In 1987 I was hired as his attorney
    I thought it was an honor and was relishing the journey
    Until he listed every girl his hand crept up from her-knee

    Oh, I hate Trump!

    His sole respect for women lies in whether they’re desirous
    He thinks just like hounddog and he reasons like a virus
    Sure, he has lots of money, but then so does Miley Cyrus!

    So I hate Trump!

    2. I hate Trump.

    I wish a truck would take him to the dump.

    I asked him once how many rooms there were in his apartment.
    He’d given different answers in that particular department.
    Trump said, “Whatever they will print!” ‘cause that was what “outsmart” meant!

    Boy, I hate Trump!

    If this creep becomes our President, it’s time to move to Togo
    He’ll tear up Betsy Ross’s flag and substitute his logo
    His first State of the Union will state “Union is a no-go!”

    Yes I hate Trump!

    3. I hate Trump!

    As President I’d rather Forrest Gump!

    Can we survive a POTUS who will be as mean as he is?
    Whose speech Francisco Franco and a Kardashian between is
    Who might go to the UN and just talk about his penis?

    Oh, I hate Trump!

    He’s such a slimeball, a T-Rex would hesitate to eat him…
    If you’re averse to orange, trust me, you don’t want to meet him.
    And please don’t get me started on the nominee to beat him!

    Still, I hate Trump!

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