Category Archives: Law & Law Enforcement

Ethics Quiz: Punishing The 12-Year-Old Killer

debrow

Texas Monthly this month has a troubling profile of Edwin Debrow, who is 37 years old,  has been behind bars since he was 12, and may have to stay there until he is 52. On September 21, 1991, Debrow shot a San Antonio school teacher named Curtis Edwards in the back of the head. Edwards’ body was found sprawled across the front seat of a taxi that he drove part-time at night. Edwin, police determined, had shot Edwards during an attempted robbery. Above is the photo of the 12-year-old in custody.

Texas law, you will not be surprised to learn, allows very harsh punishment for  juvenile offenders.Other states will sometimes try 12-year-olds as adults. Last year’s documentary “Beware the Slenderman” tells the strange story of Anissa Weier and Morgan Geyser, two 12-year-old Wisconsin girls who attempted to stab another 12-year old girl to death in 2014. Under Wisconsin law, Weier and Geyser will be tried as adults for attempted first-degree intentional homicide, and if convicted, they could be sentenced to up to 65 years in state prison.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day is this:

Is it ethical for society to punish children with such long prison sentences, no matter how serious the crime?

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Filed under Childhood and children, Family, History, Law & Law Enforcement, U.S. Society

Texas Says It Will Withhold Funds From Sanctuary Cities, And It Is The Ethical Thing To Do

sanctuary-cities-map

Texas Governor Greg Abbott  says that the state is likely to cut off funding for Travis County after rebellious Sheriff Sally Hernandez announced it would cease cooperation with federal immigration authorities. Nationally, new Attorney General Jeff Sessions is expected to do the same with federal funds, punishing various grandstanding sanctuary cities, including the Big Apple, New York City itself.

Illegal immigration facilitating cities should have been stopped at the very beginning, but the Obama Administration, pledged to enforce  the laws of the land, allowed this defiance to continue and spread. As part of an expected, indeed promised, crackdown on illegal immigration, Donald Trump should emulate his most similar past President and take a firm stand against this virtual nullification, just like Old Hickory.

Says Professor Turley…

The coming weeks will see if these confrontations are going to worsen but the politics are not promising for compromise. That would result in the type of confrontation between federal and state authorities that we have not seen on such a large scale. There are over three dozen such cities. It could lead to some interesting constitutional challenges over conditions tied to federal funding. In 1987 in South Dakota v. Dole, the Supreme Court upheld federal conditions that withheld highway funding from cities that did not enforce the federal drinking age…. Ironically, these largely liberal cities may rely the most on a ruling against the Obama Administration. In 2012, the Court found such coercion in National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius, when the Court struck down a provision of the Affordable Care Act that would have blocked federal Medicaid funding to states that did not adopt a Medicaid expansion.

[ I think the professor is stretching here. A lot. If that’s the best legal precedent the sanctuary cities can muster, they are doomed to lose. ] Continue reading

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Filed under Citizenship, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement

From The “Double Standard” Files: Obama’s Voter ID Lie

"What? No, I think he looks just fine! He always looks fine!"

“What? No, I think he looks just fine! He always looks fine!”

This will undoubtedly be called a partisan post, and when it is, I will be ticked off. It is not partisan to object to outright lies. It is partisan to ignore and accept lies according to who the liar is. This is the bind the news media has placed itself in, and a brilliant, throbbing example occurred during President Obama’s last press conference.

Discussing his concerns about state voter ID  laws, Obama said,

“We’re the only advanced democracy in the world that makes it harder for people to vote.  It traces directly back to Jim Crow and the legacy of slavery, and it became sort of acceptable to restrict the franchise. . . . we are the world’s oldest continuous democracy, and yet we systematically put up barriers and make it as hard as possible for our citizens to vote….This whole notion of election-voting fraud, this is something that has constantly been disproved. This is fake news.”

Wait, by “this is fake news,” was the President really  announcing that what he just said was fiction? That would be very impressive, and a great new standard: imagine if the news media did that, and flagged their misleading stories!  But I’m pretty sure that he was trying to make us believe what isn’t true, and a falsehood that supports the phony narrative that efforts to ensure the integrity of elections are really racist plots. Explicates John Fund:

“All industrialized democracies — and most that are not — require voters to prove their identity before voting. Britain was a holdout, but last month it announced that persistent examples of voter fraud will require officials to see passports or other documentation from voters in areas prone to corruption…In 2012, I attended a conference in Washington, D.C., of election officials from more than 60 countries; they convened there to observe the U.S. presidential election. Most were astonished that so many U.S. states don’t require voter ID…. [O]ur neighbors require voter ID. Canada adopted voter-ID requirements in 2007 and saw them reaffirmed in 2010; they have worked smoothly since, with almost no complaints. Mexico’s “Credencial para Votar” has a hologram, a photo, and other information embedded in it, and it is impossible to effectively tamper with it. …Britain is painfully learning that it too must take steps to restore confidence in its elections. Sir Eric Pickles, a former Conservative cabinet minister, warned earlier this year, in a government-commissioned report titled “Securing the Ballot,” that voter fraud had been allowed to fester in Muslim communities because of “politically correct over-sensitivities about ethnicity and religion.” Sir Eric said that the authorities were in a “state of denial” and were “turning a blind eye” to fraud cases. Last month, Theresa May’s government responded to the problem. It announced that “endemic corruption” meant that voters in certain areas will now have to show photo identification. The government may even require people to prove their UK citizenship before granting them the right to vote.”

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Filed under Around the World, Citizenship, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, History, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Race, Rights, U.S. Society

Inauguration Cake Ethics (No, I Can’t Believe I Wrote That Either)

cake-2

THE LATEST PROOF OF PRESIDENT TRUMP’S DEPRAVITY!

He specifically asked for an exact replica of Barack Obama’s 2013 Inauguration cake! The HORROR!

Apparently nothing is too trivial to use to attack Donald Trump. Focus, guys, focus!

The scandal:

Trump asked the baker who made the official Inauguration cake—until today, I hadn’t given any thought to the Inauguration cakes of either Trump of Obama. and I was a happier man for it—to make an exact replica of one of Obama’s cakes. Why, I have no idea. I think both the original and the copy are tacky. Don’t you?

cakes

Celebrity baker Duff Goldman of TV’s “Ace Of Cakes” then tweeted that the cake at one of Trump’s Inauguration balls was a rip-off of his design. Social media Trump-haters immediately pronounced this as “100% plagiarism.” Donald Trump is plagiarizing cakes now! Is there anything he won’t do? I bet Hitler plagiarized cakes.

Whether this really is plagiarism is an interesting, if stupid, question. A design made for one-time only use commissioned by the White House was duplicated and used again by the White House, though with new occupants, four years later. Was it a derivative work? Homage? Fair use? Does the White House own the design, having commissioned it originally? All we have is a two-dimensional representation, and there is no definitive evidence since both were, you know, eaten. I’d say a copyright infringement claim would be futile, and petty. Here, you try to figure it out. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Etiquette and manners, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement

Update: Astoundingly Unethical Lawyer-Hypnotist In Prison, And Disbarred.

Good.

Fine on the way to prison, where he will be hypnotized and will spend his 12-year sentence thinking he's a chicken...

Fine on the way to prison, where he will be hypnotized and will spend his 12-year sentence thinking he’s a chicken…

I hadn’t followed the story of Michael Fine since I wrote about him in 2014. This was the Sheffield, Ohio lawyer who hypnotized female clients so he could sexually molest them. When I wrote the post, two victims had been identified. The final tally was six, and there may have been more.

In September of 2015, Fine pleaded guilty to five counts of kidnapping and one count of attempted kidnapping.  He admitted to using his skill in  hypnosis to control the female clients, forcing them submit his sexual desires against their conscious will. Last week, Fine was sentenced to 12 years in prison. He had already been permanently disbarred by the Ohio Bar. Fine was not a licensed hypnotist, but needless to say, he was an unethical hypnotist too.

Judge Patricia Cosgrove told Fine at his sentencing, “At the lowest point in their lives when they came to you for help in the throes of painful divorces and custody battles, you took advantage of them. You took advantage of their trust and faith in you by sexually abusing them. You deserve to be punished.”

Ya think?

When I mentioned this case in some 2015 legal ethics seminars, many lawyers refused to believe it. I even lost a law firm client because one lawyer complained that I showed insensitivity by making a mild joke about the story, which did and does remind me of something out of a bad Adam Sandler movie.  It is the strangest example of unethical lawyering I have encountered, but I am confident that a stranger one will appear eventually.

________________________

Pointer: Fred

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Filed under Character, Gender and Sex, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions

Self-Driving Car Ethics: Who Do They Decide To Kill? You?

av-choice

CBS’s “Bull,” a drama about a jury consultant (played by “NCIS” alum Michael Weatherly) is an ethics mess…but then, so is the former jury consultant Weatherly’s  character is loosely  based on: “Dr.” Phil McGraw. The show does find some interesting ethics issues, however. A couple of weeks ago the story involved the programming in an experimental self-driving car. The issue: is it ethical for such a car to be programmed to kill its passenger if it has to make a life or death choice?

The ethical conflict involved is the so-called “trolley problem,” which is, as the name suggests, over a hundred years old. British philosopher Philippa Foot developed it into series of hypotheticals in 1967. In 1985, American philosopher Judith Jarvis Thomson scrutinized and expanded on Foot’s ideas in The Yale Law Journal. Here is one of Thompson’s scenarios:

“Suppose you are the driver of a trolley. The trolley rounds a bend, and there come into view ahead five track workmen, who have been repairing the track. The track goes through a bit of a valley at that point, and the sides are steep, so you must stop the trolley if you are to avoid running the five men down. You step on the brakes, but alas they don’t work. Now you suddenly see a spur of track leading off to the right. You can turn the trolley onto it, and thus save the five men on the straight track ahead. Unfortunately,…there is one track workman on that spur of track. He can no more get off the track in time than the five can, so you will kill him if you turn the trolley onto him.”

The problem: Now what, and why?

A. Throw the switch in order to maximize well-being (five people surviving is greater than one).
B. Throw the switch because you are a virtuous person, and saving five lives is the type of charitable and compassionate act a virtuous person performs.
C. Do not throw the switch because that would be a form of killing, and killing is inherently wrong.
D. Do not throw the switch because you are a Christian, and the Ten Commandments teach that killing is against the will of God.
E. Do not throw the switch because you feel aiding in a person’s death would be culturally inappropriate and illegal. Continue reading

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Filed under Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Law & Law Enforcement, Rights, Science & Technology

The 8th Annual Ethics Alarms Awards: The Worst of Ethics 2016, Part 2

pope-trump

Part II of the Worst continues with education horrors, legal outrages, the Lie of the Year, and more.

Above? That’s obviously the…

Fake News of the Year.

Now the rest..it doesn’t get any better.

Biggest KABOOM! 

exploding-head

The YMCA Slavery Recreation.  You know, even looking through this category was dangerous. I had forgotten about all these stories, which, by definition, were all horrible. This one, from February, however, had to be the winner. The YMCA Storer Camps in Jackson, Michigan included an “educational” activity called “Underground Railroad” in which black children were asked to play runaway slaves, as some teachers and camp instructors acted as slave masters, chasing them down using real horses. Once captured, the children were “auctioned off.” The principal of the school that subjected its pre-teen students to the slavery simulations rather than the other better known YMCA camp activities like nature hikes, kayaking, canoeing, horseback riding and sitting around campfires responded that he didn’t expect the uproar, since no student had ever complained before.

Most Unethical High School Discipline

Red Mountain High School  in Mesa, Arizona. On a dare from a friend, high school football player Hunter Osborn briefly flashed his naughty bits in the team photo. Nobody noticed, including the yearbook’s faculty advisor, so the photo was published in the school yearbook.  Months later, the gag was discovered. Even though the photo was so small that offending nudity was virtually invisible to the naked eye, the school had Osborn was arrested and charged with 69 counts of indecent exposure. The charges were dropped because none of the 69 “victims” pressed charges.

Most Unethical No-Tolerance Action

hazel-tweet

John Glenn High School in Suburban Detroit.  The offense: “Inappropriate use of electronics in the restroom.” The conduct: Hazel Juco, a 17-year-old student, went to the school’s bathroom to wash her hands. When she turned on the faucet, ugly brown water came out. She then used her cell-phone to take photos of the discolored water and posted it to Facebook and Twitter.

She was suspended, but eventually social media and the local news vindicated her. The water was polluted, and the school district admitted that Hazel was punished for doing the right thing.

Most Unethical School Teacher

(Excluding Rapists)

A Tie! 

1. Malik Leigh, a teacher in Palm Beach Lakes High School’s pre-law academy a kindergarten teacher at Captain Johnston Blakely Elementary on Bainbridge Island, Washington

Leigh’s specialty is indoctrination. Aming his exam questions last year…

“If Donald Trump becomes president of the United states, we are:

A.) Screwed

B.) Screwed

C.) Screwed

D.) Screwed behind a really YUGE wall that Mexico pays for.”

and…

“When performing an opening statement, it is best to:

A. Wink at the Judge

B. find the hottest person on the Jury and focus your words on them

C. Speak to them as if they are cordial friends.

D. Treat them like the MORONS they are.”

He was suspended.

Good.

2. “Jill Watson.” You can’t be a more unethical teacher than when you’re not a teacher at all. Or human.

Naked Teacher of the Year

Leigh Anne Arthur, In a completely warped and unfair application of the Naked Teacher Principle, school district officials in Union County demanded and received the resignation of the engineering teacher  after a student stole her phone, examined its contents and found a semi-nude selfie  intended for her husband’s enjoyment only.The student, who  warned her that “something bad was coming,” sent the images to other students through text messages and social media Arthur sued the school board for wrongful termination, but recently dropped the suit.  The student was charged with a computer crime and voyeurism. The Naked Teacher Principle holds that

A secondary school teacher or administrator (or other role model for children) who allows pictures of himself or herself to be widely publicized, as on the web, showing the teacher naked or engaging in sexually provocative poses, cannot complain when he or she is dismissed by the school as a result. The first formulation of the NTP can be found here.

This obviously does not apply to Arthur. Ironically it would apply to the incoming First Lady if she were a teacher, and arguably applies still, since the First Lady is a role model.

Double Standard Of The Year

pelosi-tweet

Progressives and Democrats, who performed an immediate U-turn as soon Donald Trump won the election, and after having expressing outrage and indignation when Trump had suggested, about a month earlier, that he might not “accept the results of the election,” which he had claimed was “rigged,” immediately challenged the results of the election, and claimed it was rigged.

And they are still doing it today.

 Lie of the Year

and

Jumbo of the Year

Jumbo film Continue reading

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Filed under Education, Ethics Train Wrecks, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Jumbo, Kaboom!, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions, U.S. Society