Tales Of The Great Stupid: Wow…Who Could Have Seen THIS Coming?

Children are being bombarded by media and social media propaganda asserting that a vast number of people are trapped in bodies having the “wrong” sex organs, and celebrating the “T’s in the LGBTQ+ interest-group-of-convenience as the cool new martyrs. Thus an increasing number of these children convince their woke and irresponsible parents, and doctors who would rather be politically correct than “do no harm,” to divert their fates from the natural biological path to something else, because everybody is doing it, or everybody is saying it’s the right thing to do. It shouldn’t take much to figure out this is a terrible trend based on terrible reasoning, but there are so many such trends and ideas flourishing now that it’s hard to bat them all away.

And so we have the case of 23-year-old Keira Bell in Great Britain, who is suing a National Health Service gender clinic that she says should have challenged her decision to transition to male as a teenager. A tomboy as a child, Keira says her determination to switch gender gradually built up as she found out more about transitioning online, and “one step led to another.”

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Last Gasp Ethics, New Year’s Eve 2020

Happy New Year, Everybody!

1. A late entry in the “Most Unethical Lawyer of 2020” competition! McGinnis E. Hatfield was stripped of his license to practice law by the West Virginia Supreme Court. What did he do? Well, this section of a transcript of his conversation with a female client explains things pretty well:

Female: “I thought like when we first started out, I was just going to pay you. I didn’t know that you wanted sex out of the whole thing.”

Hatfield: “Well, I’d have to charge you like $1,500 bucks. You don’t have $1,500, do you?”

Female: “No.”

Hatfield “So come on out here. Just come. What time do you want to come?… [I]t’s just not going to work unless you do what I say.”

Female: “What do you want me to do?”

Hatfield: “… “Well, I want you to let me eat your pussy, and then I want you to let – I want you to suck my dick, and then, you know, I just have to – I’m as straightforward as I can be. And if you don’t want to do that, then fine. I don’t have any- I like you. And if you don’t want to do that, then we’ll just have to call it off.”

Female: “Is that not – all right. That’s fine. Whatever.”

Hatfield: “Is that okay?”

Female: “I mean no, not really because I’m not a whore.”

Hatfield: ” … And like I said, if you won’t want to do that, then that’s fine by me. I wish you luck. And if you don’t want to do that, then I’m not going to try to represent you. So that’s a benefit for you. And I’ll give you some money, too[.]”… You know, I’m shooting straight with you. I told you from the beginning that sex was important to me. I want some now. Nobody’s tried to trick you. And it would be safe, too. But anyway, if you don’t want to do it, that’s fine by me, honey, but you’ll have to get somebody to help you with your divorce, too.”

Female: “Okay, That’s fine.

Of course, it’s not fine. Lawyers are prohibited from having sex with clients in most jurisdictions. Lawyers cannot encourage individuals, including clients, to commit a crime. Mr. Hatfield compounded his problems when he flunked the easiest part of a disciplinary inquiry, telling the judge who asked Hatfield whether in retrospect, he found his behavior inappropriate or unethical,

“I think my conduct in this whole situation is human. And that’s the only defense I’m offering. Lord knows, we all need that. So that’s as far as I’ll go with that.”

The judge tried again, asking, “Are you remorseful?” Hatfield replied, “No. I have no remorse. I feel like I’ve been victimized.”

What an idiot.

It put me in mind of the Steven Wright line, “How did the fool and his money get together in the first place?”

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Merry Christmas, Everyone! And Here Is the Final Chapter of “Miracle On 34th Street,”An Ethics Companion, As Kris Kringle Gets His Day In Court [Updated]

It could be argued that the hearing (it’s not a trial) that serves as the dramatic climax to “Miracle on 34th Street” is the most memorable courtroom scene in movie history. That tells us something, though I’m not sure what. A more legally and ethically absurd spectacle would be difficult to imagine.

When we last saw Kris Kringle—if that indeed is his name—he was preparing to go to a hearing in which his sanity would be determined by a judge. (Insert Marx Brothers “Sanity Clause” joke here.) Lawyer Fred Gailey actually quits his law firm to take on the case, which he is handling pro bono. The hearing will he presided over by a judge played by Gene Lockhart, who has impeccable Christmas movie credentials, having played Bob Cratchit in one of the adaptations of “A Christmas Carol.”

The logical, legal and ethical aspects of the story go off the rails quickly, never to return. Mr. Macy orders Sawyer to have the case dropped, which makes no sense: if Sawyer were suing Kris for assault and battery, of if Macy’s had pressed criminal charges, Macy would have some say. But this is the state of New York saying that Kris is a threat to himself and others because he’s deluded. It’s a state matter now.

Sawyer goes to Fred and tries to get him to drop the case, saying “I represent Mr. Macy.” What, he’s a lawyer now? Not only does Macy have no role in this matter, Fred’s defending Kris, not prosecuting the case.

When Sawyer mentions that Macy’s wants to avoid publicity, Fred sees a little light bulb go on in his skull. “Very interesting,” he says out loud. “Publicity. Hmm. That’s not a bad idea! If I’m going to win this case… I’ll have to have plenty of public opinion!” Except that’s unethical. From New York’s Code of Professional Conduct, which wasn’t in force when the film was made but the principles were:

DR 7-107 [1200.38] Trial Publicity.
A. A lawyer participating in or associated with a criminal or civil matter, or associated in a law firm or government agency with a lawyer participating in or associated with a criminal or civil matter, shall not make an extrajudicial statement that a reasonable person would expect to be disseminated by means of public communication if the lawyer knows or reasonably should know that it will have a substantial likelihood of materially prejudicing an adjudicative proceeding in that matter….

Saying that one’s client will need publicity to influence public opinion is a clear statement of intent to violate the spirit if not the letter of the ethics rules. Fred breaches the rules again when he goes to see the judge to persuade him not to sign Kris’s commitment papers. In an adversary proceeding, a lawyer must not meet with a judge without opposing counsel present; that an ex parte communication, and strictly forbidden. Of course, it’s also unethical for the judge to let him do it.

That’s not all in the realm of judicial ethics. After suggesting that the fact that Kris says he’s Santa Claus makes his insanity a forgone conclusion, Judge Harper, who is apparently an elected judge (a situation I regard as a “pre-unethical condition”) is visited by his campaign manager, Charlie, an old pol played by none other than William Frawley, now immortal for co-starring in “I Love Lucy” as Fred Mertz. He suggest that Harper withdraw from the case:

“This Kringle case is dynamite. Let some judge handle it that isn’t coming up for reelection..I’m no legal brain trust. I don’t know a habeas from a corpus. But I do know politics. That’s my racket. I got you elected, didn’t I? And I’m gonna try to get you reelected….You’re a Pontius Pilate the minute you start!”

Then the judge’s grandchildren make a convenient entrance, and snub him because he’s being mean to Santa. Later, when the hearing somehow is turned into a referendum on whether Santa is real, Charlie returns with a dire warning:

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Saturday Morning Ethics: Christmas Countdown Edition

The story of that Christmas classic, Bing’s last holiday hit and also the last popular Christmas song that references its religious origins, is here.

I almost called this post the Clinton Impeachment Anniversary Edition, but decided to be more upbeat. It was on this date that William Jefferson Clinton became the second U.S. President to be impeached. Like the first, the unfortunate Andrew Johnson, Clinton was acquitted in the Senate. Also like Johnson, Clinton was impeached for genuine reasons consistent with the Constitution’s requirements. The next impeachment—did you notice how Democrats never mentioned it during the 2020 campaign?—-was very different: the Democratic House just decided it wanted to impeach President Trump and contrived an excuse to do it after three years of searching.

As veteran readers here know, it was the near complete absence of ethical analysis from the news media during Monica Madness and the mountain of rationalizations and obfuscations employed by Clinton’s defenders that prompted me to launch The Ethics Scoreboard, which in due course led to Ethics Alarms.

1. A bar exam ethics train wreck in California. The ABA Journal reports that more than 3,000 law school grads who sat for the State Bar of California’s remote October exam had their proctoring videos flagged for review, and dozens report receiving violation notices from the agency’s office of admissions. The issues flagged appear to be largely technology-based, and many claim they had no indication of a problem until they received violation notices. The flagging will create serious problems for those involved. A Chapter 6 Notice, as it is called, allows an applicant to respond in writing before any finding is made. If there is a determination that a test-taker violated procedures, bar actions could include warnings, a score of zero for the flagged sessions or the entire exam and negative marks on character and fitness evaluations, endangering the applicant’s prospects of receiving a license.

An individual can challenge the office’s determination and request an administrative hearing, and an unfavorable outcome can be appealed with the Committee of Bar Examiners and the California Supreme Court. However, those applicants’ October bar exam scores will be in limbo while hearings and appeals are resolved, and they will not be able to take the February 2021 exam when determinations of previous scores are pending.

The violations cited include examinees’ eyes being intermittently out of view of their webcams, audio not working; and test-takers not being present behind their computers during the exam. In other words, this is another disaster created by pandemic hysteria and technology unsuited to the challenge of providing an adequate alternative to in-person activity.

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“My Cousin Vinny” Meets Zoom

vinny

Once again I have to say “I don’t understand this story at all.

If you recall “My Cousin Vinny,” as almost all lawyers do (and fondly), Joe Pesci’s fish-out-of-water defense lawyer annoyed imposing Southern judge Fred Gwynn by first appearing in court wearing a leather jacket, and then showing up in the suit above because it was the only one he could acquire at short notice.

At least he tried.

While Ethics Alarms has taken the unalterable position that when children are forced to attend school via Zoom, what may appear in their homes are not, in fact, “in school,” a lawyer who appears before a judge via Zoom is still, in fact, “in court” and before a judge. Why? Because the judge says so, that’s why. And as Vinnie soon learned, when a judge says “Jump!” the only responsible response is “How high, Your Honor?”

Perhaps a Delaware lawyer named Weisbrot has never seen the movie. He complained to Delaware Vice Chancellor Joseph R. Slights III i ex parte “that [the court] would not consider an application from him because he “was not wearing a tie.” The Vice Chancellor responded, “That is true, as the record reflects.” BUT…

What the record also reflects is that Mr. Weisbrot appeared in court for trial (via Zoom) on Tuesday in either a printed tee-shirt or pajamas (it was difficult to discern).

In other words, “It’s true you weren’t wearing a tie, but a greater problem is THAT YOU WERE WEARING FREAKING PAJAMAS!”

Mr. Wiesbrot responded by channeling his inner (and outer) Vinnie by, in his next appearance via Zoom before the same judge, in something less than the kind of attire he had to know the judge expected:

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From The “Bias Makes You Stupid” Files! Ethics Dunce: Legal Ethicist Steven Gillers

A depressing theme throughout the Trump years has been the corruption of various professions as members once justifiably regarded as trustworthy abandoned their ethical obligations to become “resistance” allies. The professions thus tainted include judges, scientists, doctors and health professionals, lawyers, psychiatrists, historians, teachers and professors, university administrators, and of course the worst offenders, politicians and journalists. Maybe I’ve missed a few. One more profession that has to be included on the list, I’m ashamed to say, is legal ethicists.

In a post in 2017, I discussed the disgraceful filing of a frivolous and politically motivated bar complaint against then-Trump aide Kellyanne Conway by a group of law professors, some of whom are ethics specialists, and a few of whom I knew and respected. I wrote in part,

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Daybreak Ethics Warm-Up,12/4/2020: An Ancient Judge, A Non-Binary Actor, An Idiotic Team, An Icky Teacher, And An Absurd Columnist Walk Into An Ethics Bar…

1. Political, not logical, honest or competent…Actress Ellen Page, 33, best known for her performance as the pregnant teen in “Juno,” announced this week that she was “non-binary” trans. “My pronouns are he/they and my name is Elliot. I feel lucky to be writing this. To be here. To have arrived at this place in my life,” she wrote. Immediately, Netflix began changing Ellen Page’s name to Elliot in the credits all Netflix movies and series she had participated in. Now, for example, the IMDb page for the Netflix original series “The Umbrella Academy” says Elliot Page was in the cast. This is being called an “update.” It isn’t an update. It’s a lie, and airbrushing history.

When Al Hedison starred as “The Fly” in the original horror movie, that’s who he was. Later, Al changed his name to David Hedison for some reason, and that was the actor we watched in “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea,” Irwin Allen’s wonderfully cheesy Sixties TV sci-fi series, and as one of the many Felix Leiters in the James Bond films. They didn’t change his credit on “The Fly.” Nor do you see the name Jack Palance in the credits as the evil gunslinger in “Shane” In that film, the actor we now know as Jack was going by “Walter.” And that’s who he was…then.

Identities are not retroactive. Actress Linda Day had a substantial career in television before she met and married actor Christopher George in 1970. Thereafter, she performed under the name of Linda Day George, but no one changed her credits on the shows she had previously performed in as Linda Day, because Christoper George was barely a twinkle in her eye then. This isn’t hard. Netflix is rushing to retroactively alter history not because doing so is accurate or true, but to demonstrate that the company is “woke,” and thus supporting Page as well as trans people everywhere. It’s virtue-signaling, and a particularly dumb and misleading version of it.

Oh, I should mention that Olympic athlete Bruce Jenner was not Caitlyn Jenner when he won his Gold medals in male events. Olympic records were not changed to claim a falsehood and an impossibility.

2. “Was that wrong? Should I not have done that?” The New York Daily News reports that a Staten Island high school teacher, so far unnamed, was seen naked and masturbating during a Zoom conference this week.

Apparently he tried to invoke Rationalization #3, The Unethical Role Model: “He/She would have done the same thing,” pointing out that “Jeffrey Toobin did it!” (Kidding!)

As with Toobin, I don’t understand the thought process, if you could call it that, that could produce such conduct. I also don’t understand the various statements in the aftermath of the Staten Island incident as described in the story. It wasn’t clear if the teacher intentionally exposed himself or if the video call involved students, the Daily News noted. So what? The conduct is nuts and requires firing for cause either way. I suppose intentionally behaving like this on Zoom is a crime, or more likely, evidence of mental illness.

I also enjoyed the Captain Obvious aspect of the statement by the school:

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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:

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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.

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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.

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