2020 Election Ethics Train Wreck Update: Ethics Zugzwang In Pennsylvania

pennsylvania-scaled

[Let me begin by apologizing for being so inconsistent in my spelling of zugzwang (or zugswang). Both are acceptable, but I should pick one, and I’m picking zugzswang, because it will score more points in Scrabble. I will eventually go back and change the many “zugswangs” in previous posts.]

Oh-oh.

A Pennsylvania state court judge yesterday issued a preliminary injunction preventing Pennsylvania from taking any further steps to certify the election, including the assignment of 20 electoral votes to Joe Biden,pending further court hearings and rulings. The ruling upholds an injunction from earlier in the week.

The opinion is here. The issue is whether legislative expansion of absentee balloting to universal mail-in balloting violated the Pennsylvania Constitution. (It sure looks like it to me.) The petitioners seek to preclude the Secretary of State from transmitting the certification or otherwise perfecting the electoral college selections.

Here is the judge’s description of the claim:

In the Petition, Petitioners allege that the Act of October 31, 2019, P.L. 552, No. 77 (Act 77), which added and amended various absentee and mail-in voting provisions in the Pennsylvania Election Code (Election Code),1 is unconstitutional and void ab initio because it purportedly contravenes the requirements of the Pennsylvania Constitution. Petitioners allege that Article VII, section 14 of the Pennsylvania Constitution provides two exclusive mechanisms by which a qualified elector may cast his or her vote in an election: (1) by submitting his or her vote in propria persona at the polling place on election day; and (2) by submitting an absentee ballot, but only if the qualified voter satisfies the conditions precedent to meet the requirements of one of the four, limited exclusive circumstances under which absentee voting is authorized under the Pennsylvania constitution. (Petition, ¶16.) Petitioners allege that mail-in voting in the form implemented through Act 77 is an attempt by the legislature to fundamentally overhaul the Pennsylvania voting system and permit universal, no-excuse, mail-in voting absent any constitutional authority. Id., ¶17. Petitioners argue that in order to amend the Constitution, mandatory procedural requirements must be strictly followed. Specifically, pursuant to Article XI, Section 1, a proposed constitutional amendment must be approved by a majority vote of the members of both the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and Senate in two consecutive legislative sessions, then the proposed amendment must be published for three months ahead of the next general election in two newspapers in each county, and finally it must be submitted to the qualified electors as a ballot question in the next general election and approved by a majority of those voting on the amendment. According to Petitioners, the legislature did not follow the necessary procedures for amending the Constitution before enacting Act 77 which created a new category of mail-in voting; therefore, the mail-in ballot scheme under Act 77 is unconstitutional on its face and must be struck down. Id., ¶¶27, 35-37. As relief, Petitioners seek, inter alia, a declaration and/or injunction that prohibits Respondents from certifying the November 2020 General Election results, which include mail-in ballots that are permitted on a statewide basis and are allegedlyimproper because Act 77 is unconstitutional.

The Judge found that the plaintiffs were likely to prevail on their state constitutional claims…

Continue reading

2020 Election Ethics Train Wreck Update: Well THIS Doesn’t Bode Well…

spelling problem

That’s the embarrassing first sheet of the more than 100 page lawsuit filed by lawyer Sidney Powell asking that 96,000 ballots (“at minimum”) in Georgia be disqualified. This is apparently the attack on the Georgia election that Powell referred to as releasing “the Kraken.”

Nobody seems to feel it’s necessary to explain that “Release the Kraken” is a reference to the semi-cheesy Ray Harryhousen stop-action film “Clash of the Titans,” which starred “LA Law’s” Harry Hamlin as Perseus, the Greek mythological hero. In the movie (though not in mythology), Perseus defeats the monstrous Kraken, which is released by the bad guys to kill him and Andromeda (it’s complicated). For some reason Perseus, in addition to carrying around Medusa’s head (which turns the Kraken to stone), rides the winged horse Pegasus. Pegasus was the transportation of a different Greek myth hero, Bellerophon. Neither Bellerophon nor Perseus had anything to do with the Kraken, which is not even a Greek myth monster. It’s Scandinavian, and is basically a giant squid.

Observations:

Continue reading

Ethics Quote Of The Month: Justice Neil Gorsuch

First-Amendment-on-scroll1

“It is time—past time—to make plain that, while the pandemic poses many grave challenges, there is no world in which the Constitution tolerates color-coded executive edicts that reopen liquor stores and bike shops but shutter churches, synagogues, and mosques.”

That is the final line of  Justice Gorsuch’s concurring opinion to the SCOTUS majority’s per curiam ruling, released last night,  in favor of New York Roman Catholic and Orthodox Jewish groups that sued over the state’s limited religious service attendance rules in response to the Wuhan virus.

The majority’s ruling concludes in part,

Members of this Court are not public health experts, and we should respect the judgment of those with special expertise and responsibility in this area. But even in a pandemic,the Constitution cannot be put away and forgotten. The restrictions at issue here, by effectively barring many from attending religious services, strike at the very heart of the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious liberty.

The emerging new Left no longer regards religious liberty as a big deal—ironic, since today we celebrate the group of religious expatriates who helped found our nation to escape religious persecution. The entire opinion, the concurring opinions of Justices Kavanaugh and Gorsuch, and the dissenting opinions of Chief Justice Roberts, Sotomayor and Breyer (Roberts argues that the case is moot) can be read here.

There can no longer be any reasonable doubt that President Trump’s Supreme Court nominations have provided the nation and its citizens with crucial protection  from a furious assault on its core rights by the suddenly “ends justify the means” obsessed Left. State and city government resorting to arbitrary edicts during the pandemic is but a preface to what is coming over the next four years.

If for nothing else, Americans who cherish the liberty that makes the nation unique and the hope of the world should give thanks this day for President Trump, and the Supreme Court he has left as his legacy.

 

 

Pre-Crummy Thanksgiving Warm-Up, 11/25/2020

Friend thanksgiving

1. It’s a good thing I’m not a conspiracy theorist…because it would then be easy for me to conclude that the Wuhan virus lock-downs, travel restrictions and dictatorial measures enacted by various Democratic Party-run states as well as the would-be edicts of the CDC are part of a calculated plan to weaken the family, isolate and divide the citizenry, undermine religion, increase fear and desperation, and further weaken American traditions and institutions, all for the purpose of paving the way for a totalitarian, single-party takeover. Killing Thanksgiving, which has been on the anti-American hit-list for a long time, would be an obvious and effective step in such a plotan.

Fortunately I am not a conspiracy theorist, and I view these developments from the perspective of Hanlon’s Razor. However, Thanksgivingcide this year, though not premeditated, will still advance the cause of the fascists of the Left, who are real, powerful and with the election of Joe Biden, on the ascendance.

What is particularly galling is that it is nearly impossible to hold a Thanksgiving family dinner this year even if one wants to be defiant, as I do. The various quarantine rules make traveling futile. The fearmongering has worked: my sister, for example, is now a full Wuhanphobic. She wouldn’t come into my home, and wouldn’t allow us in hers. I will not patronize another restaurant that requires diners to wear masks between bites, like the one in Arlington, Virginia we used last month to try to celebrate my son’s birthday—I’d rather starve—or rush to put the damn things on whenever a waiter nears the table.

Next up, Christmas. That’s been on the Left’s hit list for a long time too.

Continue reading

Ethics Proposition: Justice Barrett Should Immediately Recuse Herself From Any Future SCOTUS Decisions Relating to the 2020 Presidential Election

Barrett Trump

I will stipulate that the newest Supreme Court Justice does not have to recuse, and that even the judicial ethics rules applying to other Federal judges (no judicial ethics rules are controlling for Supreme Court justices) would not require recusal in Justice Barrett’s circumstances.

I will also concede that the arguments that she should not recuse are significant and important:

1. Were she to recuse, it would be interpreted by many as an acknowledgment that her Senate critics and others were correct to suspect that she was nominated to assist the President if necessary in any Supreme Court challenges to the election results.

2. Her recusal would suggest a precedent holding that a Justice being nominated by a President creates a rebuttable presumption that such a Justice has a conflict of interest that would interfere with the Justice’s ability to exercise independent and objective judgment in any case directly affecting that President’s interests.

3. Her recusal would leave the Court with a potential 4-4 split on a case that would have major impact on the nation.

4. Democratic officials’ demands that she recuse herself are driven purely by partisanship, and are hypocritical. Justice Kagan, appointed by President Obama, did not recuse herself in cases involving the Affordable Care Act, for example.

All this is true,

Continue reading

40th Anniversary Ethics, 11/23/2020…

That was the recording the lovely and brilliant Grace Bowen Marshall and I danced to at our wedding reception. An old fashioned tune, you say? Hell, it was old-fashioned then. After an uproarious party featuring the combined talents of my two performing groups, The Showstoppers and The Music Lobby, seasoned by my cherished friend Jay Silva’s saxophone rendition of “Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart.” I performed “Let a Woman in Your Life” (from “My Fair Lady”), and it was off to the historic Hay-Adams hotel (across from the White House) and from there to a cozy Civil War era inn near Charlottesville, where the charming host brought us breakfast in bed, and his cat and dog slept with us. As I said: cozy.

And thus began a great adventure that still has some twists and turns, battles, defeats and triumphs to reveal.

What a wonderful day.

1. Stay classy, Jenna!

Micropenis

You know, once upon a time a public utterance like this would be viewed as a breach of legal professionalism, if not an outright ethics violation. By the standards of past Trump lawyers like Michael Cohen, however, it seems positively quaint.

This kind of thing is why I caution lawyers to avoid Twitter.

Continue reading

The 2020 Election And “The Fruit Of The Poisonous Tree”

The Fruit of the Poisonous Tree is a century-old legal doctrine that extends the exclusionary rule to make evidence inadmissible in court if it was discovered as a result of illegally obtained information or evidence. If the evidence”tree” is “poisoned,” so is its “fruit.” The doctrine was established in the 1920 case of Silverthorne Lumber Co. v. United States; Justice Felix Frankfurter gets credit for the metaphor from his 1939 opinion in Nardone v. United States.

There are three exceptions to the rule. The evidence will not be excluded if it was discovered from a source unrelated to the illegal activity, if its discovery was inevitable, or if the connection between the illegal activity and the discovery of the evidence is weak. The most famous example of the doctrine in action is probably “Dirty Harry,” where a mad serial killer is set free because detective Harry Callahan locates where the maniac had buried a girl alive by torturing him until he revealed the information..

The “fruit of the poisonous tree” analogy has turned up in the Ethics Alarms comments and elsewhere on the web regarding a possible application to voter fraud in the 2020 election. The theory: even if enough votes in a particular state can’t be conclusively shown to have been fraudulent to change that state’s winner in the Presidential election, substantial proof of cheating by the party prevailing in that states’ voting ought to invalidate the result, since the vote total itself was the result of cheating, and the entire election is “poisoned.”

There is a lot wrong with the theory and the analogy, both from a legal and an ethical perspective.

Continue reading

Saturday Ethics Respite Before Holiday Madness, 11/21/2020: The Justice, The Pope, The Scouts, And The Chickens

This is annually the last day before everything goes bananas in Marshall World. From now until New Years, its like the Nantucket Sleigh ride, not quite as dangerous, but not as much fun either. November 22 is the anniversary of Kennedy’s assassination, my generation’s 9-11. It changed everything. The 23rd is my anniversary, #40, which my son is sure to forget and my wife, for various reasons, doesn’t like to celebrate. Next is Thanksgiving, always depressing now because what was once a vibrant table of 7-15 relatives and friends is now at most four and a lot of wistfulness. My birthday comes on December 1, forever tainted because my perverse father chose the date to die on, and fate chose me to find his body. Then it’s the anxious run-up to the Christmas holidays, which always follows in the deadest period for ProEthics, meaning that we are counting pennies at the one time of the year we don’t want to be. (There is also the annual tree drama, since both my family and Grace’s were addicted to real, meticulously decorated trees, and we have a 20 foot ceiling which makes any tree less than 8 feet look silly. The thing takes about 2500 lights, which I have the responsibility of hanging, and then over a hundred mostly unique ornaments, beginning with the yarn Santa my mother made for Jack Sr. and Eleanor’s first scraggly tree in their new Cape Cod-style home in Arlington, Massachusetts. It was 1948. Getting our tree up and decorated to family standards takes about twelve hours and multiple First Degree prickle wounds. I can’t wait.

On the plus side, I’ll finally finish the Ethics Alarms Ethics Guide to “Miracle on 42nd Street”…

1. No, I’m not surprised that the Catholic Church sexual abuse cover-up went straight to the top. Are you? I’m not even disappointed. This is what organizations and institutions do: they protect themselves, and sacrifice the victims of their misconduct.

The Vatican this month released a report that showed Pope John Paul’s role blame in allowing the disgraced former prelate Theodore E. McCarrick to continue in the Church’s hierarchy.

The investigation, commissioned by Pope Francis, who canonized John Paul in 2014, reveals how the Pope ignored a wave of accusations of sexual abuse and pedophilia against McCarrick. Three popes participated in the cover-up, but one of them, John Paul, has been canonized. So Catholic saints are now accessories to rape.

A reversal of the canonization, which may never have happened, is unlikely, but it may slow the rush to canonize future popes.

Continue reading

They—We—Executed Orlando Hall. Good.

lethal drug

One area in which the likely arrival of the Biden administration will surely signal furious back-tracking efforts will be the perpetual moral and ethical controversy over capital punishment. The execution of Orlando Hall was the eighth since the Trump administration revived capital punishment for federal crimes and the first of three scheduled during the presidential transition, if there is one.

The progressive way of the moment is to minimize or eliminate any punishment whatsoever for crimes. President-sort-of-elect Biden, in an exuberant moment, said during the campaign that there shouldn’t be prison time for any non-violent crimes. (Any non-violent crimes, Joe?) In the throes of the George Floyd Ethics Train Wreck, the bonkers concept has been promoted by the Black Lives Matter constituency that the justice system is so racist that punishing any black citizen for any crime is perpetuating “systemic racism.” Here’s Ellie Mystal, The Nation’s “justice correspondent,” writing way back in 2016:

“Black people lucky enough to get on a jury could use that power to acquit any person charged with a crime against white men and white male institutions. It’s not about the race of the defendant, but if the alleged victim is a white guy, or his bank, or his position, or his authority: we could acquit. Assault? Acquit. Burglary? Acquit. Insider trading? Acquit.Murder? … what the hell do you think is happening to black people out here? What the hell do you think we’re complaining about when your cops shoot us or choke us? Acquit. Don’t throw “murder” at me like it’s some kind of moral fault line where the risk of letting one go is too great. Black people ARE BEING MURDERED, and the system isn’t doing a damn thing to hold their killers accountable. Sorry I’m not sorry if this protest idea would put the shoe on the other foot for a change.”

Mystal isn’t alone, and since the death of Floyd with a white police officer’s knee on his neck, his logic, if you can call it that, has become infectious. Race is a factor that may signal bias by jurors: major political leaders, pundits are and academics are arguing directly that all whites are prejudiced against blacks, and Mystal’s ilk are calling on black jurors to acquit even guilty black defendants as cultural “tit for tat.” (Ellie’s a lawyer and still reached this conclusion, and still is employed as an authority. But don’t get me started on Ellie.)

It is time to reconsider and perhaps revise the absolute principle the Supreme Court articulated in Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79 (1986), the landmark decision ruling that a prosecutor’s use of a peremptory challenge in a criminal case, dismissing a juror without stating reason for doing so, may not be used to exclude jurors based solely on their race. After all, if all whites are secretly or subconsciously hostile to blacks, they can’t be trusted to judge the guilt of a black defendant, and if blacks are being urged to fight systemic racism and “mass incarceration” by acquitting guilty black criminals, they can’t be trusted either.

Maybe what we need is all Asian-American juries.

But I digress…slightly. Here was the ABA Journal’s headline regarding the execution of black death row inmate Orlando Hall: “Federal inmate tried by all-white jury is executed after Supreme Court lifts execution stay.” Justices Breyer, Sotomayor and Kagan, the so-called liberal minority on the Court, dissented from the Supreme Court order allowing the execution to proceed without explaining their dissent. They don’t have to. Biden has said he will work to end the use of capital punishment by the federal government, reversing President Trump’s support for it: the Left considers the death penalty to be an 8th Amendment breach, “cruel and unusual” punishment.

Continue reading

The Left’s Assault On The Rule Of Law And The Legal Profession’s Cowardice, Or “Nice Little Firm You Have Here—Be A Shame If Something Were To Happen To It!” (Continued)

A-Pistol-Against-My-Head.

As discussed in the first section of this post, the once sacrosanct principle that lawyers and law firms were ethically obligated to represent unpopular clients when they needed legal assistance has been deteriorating for the last decade, most recently under pressure from the self-righteous Left. Victims of the new progressive ethic that the ends justify the means, Lawyers and law firms have been threatened when they dared to align themselves with the opposition to progressive agenda items, because, in the universe to the port side of the ideological spectrum, those who don’t agree with the righteous are evil.

And it seems clear that few lawyers possess the courage and integrity to remains professional in their response to such threats.

After the King & Spalding embarrassment described in the earlier post, a similar episode occurred involving Obamacare.  In House of Representatives v. Burwell, the House challenged the legality of subsidies the Obama administration paid to insurers. After the House authorized the suit, David Rivkin and his firm, Baker Hostetler, signed a contract to litigate the case.

Rivkin was warned by members of the firm that litigating a case in opposition to Obama could drive off potential clients and hurt Baker Hostetler’s credibility…that is, its bottom line. Within a week after the contract was announced, partners at the firm, which represents many hospital management firms and insurance companies, started to receive urgent calls from general counsels of clients in the health-care industry. The messages were identical: their companies could not continue to associate with Baker Hostetler if it litigated the House’s lawsuit. Many suspected that the Obama administration was behind the scenes, urging health-care companies to drop Baker Hostetler. The firm dropped the case.

The House, suddenly without legal representation, frantically sounded out many of the top firms in Washington without success. The House finally selected D.C. lawyer William Burck of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan LLP. Three weeks later, without any explanation, Burck also withdrew from the case under pressure from his firm’s partners.

Continue reading