Category Archives: Professions

Coincidence, Ethics Violation, Or A Playground Rhyme Come True: The Lawyer’s Burning Pants

I love this story!

 Miami defense lawyer’ Stephen Gutierrez shocked onlookers when his pants burst into flames mid-trial as he was addressing the  jury. Gutierrez was defending a client  accused of intentionally setting his car on fire in South Miami. Yes, it was an arson case. He had just begun his closing argument when smoke started billowing from his pants pocket.

By sheer coincidence I’m sure, the lawyer was arguing that the defendant’s car spontaneously combusted—just like the lawyer’s trousers!— and was not intentionally set on fire. Observers told police that Gutierrez had been fiddling in his pocket right before his pants ignited. He ran out of the courtroom, and the jurors were ushered out as well. After  Gutierrez returned unharmed, he told the judge that  it wasn’t a staged  demonstration gone horribly wrong, but just a coincidence. A faulty battery in his e-cigarette had caused the fire.

In an arson trial.

During closing argument.

Where the defense was “spontaneous combustion.”

Okay!

Jurors convicted Gutierrez’s client of second-degree arson anyway. Miami-Dade police and prosecutors are now investigating the episode, and Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Michael Hanzman is deciding whether to hold him in contempt of court.

Comments: Continue reading

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Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions

2017 Oscar Ethics Post Mortem

There were more ethics-related events and issues at the last night’s Academy Awards than usual, and that’s an understatement;

1. Jimmy Kimmel, the Oscars’ designated Johnny Carson this time around, automatically gave the ceremonies the stench of ethics blindness by his very presence. Kimmel, as this site has documented, delights in provoking parents to be cruel to their young children so he can present YouTube videos of the kids’ despair for his audience’s amusement. Kimmel, of course, being bereft of shame or decency, was the perfect choice to execute the Academy’s second most important mission of the night, which was insulting the President of the United States in an international broadcast. He did not fail his dark masters. One well-publicized “quip”:

“Maybe this is not a popular thing to say, but I want to say thank you to President Trump. Remember last year when it seemed like the Oscars were racist? That’s gone, thanks to him.”

Actually, the Oscars are racist, or at least racially biased, as we shall see, and there is proof. I’d like Jimmy to show me the evidence that the President is racist, however, other than the “resistance” talking points he gets in his e-mail.

2. More Kimmel: in a typical Kimmel “human beings are just props to me!” bit, he arranged for a group of unsuspecting tourists to be taken on a Hollywood bus tour that ended up at the Oscars.  The group was escorted through the back doors of the Kodak Theater with no idea what was in store, as  Kimmel had the house lights turned down. When the tourists—Awww, ordinary slobs! Look, Meryl! The little people!”—opened the doors to the stage, the lights came up and all the stars shouted, “Mahershala!” The tourists’ shocked, ope mouthed expression were broadcast live to the world, as their Hollywood betters laughed.

This is called exploitation, and using unconsenting human beings as a means to an end.  Jimmy thinks its funny. Kant didn’t. I think it’s sometimes funny, and always unethical. Candid Camera asked for written consent before broadcasting its victims’ amusing reactions to gags like this.

3. Mel Gibson, justly nominated for his direction of “Hacksaw Ridge,” which also was nominated as Best Picture, sat up front. The Daily Beast tweeted “For Shame!” when the film won a statuette for editing, which it deserved. Let’s see: the theory is that the talented film editor should be snubbed for his work because Mel Gibson is an anti-Semite?  Yes, that’s the theory. The Beast’s Amy Zimmerman wrote a pre-Oscar hate piece on Gibson, which really and truly contained these two sentences:

Hacksaw  tells the story of Desmond Doss, a conscientious objector who enlisted as a battlefield medic during World War II. Of course, any drama that Gibson directs pales in comparison to his own behind-the-scenes odyssey: the story of an odious individual who, after years on the outskirts of Hollywood, has somehow managed to fight his way back into the mainstream.

That’s right: Amy Zimmerman thinks that the story of a religious man who volunteered to serve as a combat medic despite refusing to carry a rifle and who saved 76 wounded soldiers by dragging them to safety under enemy fire by lowering them, one by one,  on a rope device he improvised on the spot, thus winning the Medal of Honor, pales in comparison to Mel Gibson’s PR problems.

Have some damn respect for those who did risked their lives incredible things so hacks like you can write garbage like that and be paid for it, you stupid, stupid fool. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Etiquette and manners, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Popular Culture, Professions

Ethics Dunces: The Catlettsburg (KY) Police Department

punisher-logo2

This story does not fill one with trust and respect for the judgment of our warriors in blue.

The Catlettsburg, Kentucky, Police Department placed large decals on its police vehicles that show the comic book character “The Punisher’sskull logo emblazoned with the “Blue Lives Matter” slogan. Behold:

punisher-logo

The city council and mayor approved the design and decals, which were funded by local taxpayers.

Morons.

The Punisher is a Marvel Comics anti-hero who is a murderous vigilante.  He summarily executes bad guys. From Wikipedia (which apparently they don’t get in Kentucky)…

The Punisher (Frank Castle) is a fictional character appearing in American comic books published by Marvel Comics. The character… is a vigilante who employs murder, kidnapping, extortion, coercion, threats of violence, and torture in his war on crime.

Exactly the image that police departments want to convey to the public!

The Punisher’s  logo has become a symbol of “Blue Lives Matter,” featured on merchandise and Facebook posts supporting police officers against the “forces of evil,”  as in those who view the police as enemies of minorities and justice.  “American Sniper,” the 2015  film based on Navy SEAL  Chris Kyle’s life, popularized the Punisher comics, which Kyle admired. Catlettsburg Police Chief Cameron Logan thought it was just  a “warrior logo,” and didn’t know it was associated with the vicious and lawless comic book character, even though the comic itself was featured in the film. He knows now, though.

“We’re getting so many calls, and they’re saying that the Punisher logo [means] we’re out to kill people, and that’s not the meaning behind that,” Logan says. “That didn’t cross my mind.”

Wait…mind?

The logo is a death’s head! What do you think a death’s head means?

Now that his police have removed the car decals, the Chief say he regrets using the image, calling it an oversight, and  promises that in the future he’d do “a little more research” …before emblazoning death symbols associated with lawless killing on his vehicles.

That’s nice.

 

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Popular Culture, Professions

Breaking Ethics Thoughts: The White House Bars The NYT And Others From Its Press Briefing

accessdeniedWASHINGTON (CBS SF/AP) — The Trump administration ramped up its war against the press Friday, blocking several major outlets from a scheduled White House press briefing.The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, CNN and Politico were among the news organizations excluded from the meeting, reportedly an untelevised gathering with the press instead of the usual on-camera briefing with White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer.

I am not aware of the specific reasons for the action, but:

1.  I read the New York Times daily. It is routinely making every effort to present the actions of the Trump Administration in a negative light, often engaging in outright deceit to do it. It is behaving, as it has for years, as a Democratic Party organ.

2. CNN simply teems with anti-Trump hostility, in the tone of panel discussions, in the framing of the news, in the sneers and body language of its talking heads. This is not ethical journalism.

3. Politico is left-biased, but I haven’t followed it closely. The LA Times has conditions for use that I can’t meet. I’m not sure how biased they have been.

4. There is nothing per se unethical about a Presidential administration deciding that a news source it considers untrustworthy, unreliable and allied with groups that want to literally bring it down should be treated accordingly. Competent, unbiased, fair and ethical journalism is not an excessive requirement.

5. The response to Trump’s very clear warning to the news media last week was, “You can’t stop us, and we will be as hateful as we please.” This is his response to that. Hubris has its consequences. After MSNBC’s “Morning Joe’s” co-host Mika Brzezinski ‘s comment this week, some attitude adjustment seems to be mandatory. She said of the President,

“He is trying to undermine the media and trying to make up his own facts. And it could be that while unemployment and the economy worsens, he could have undermined the messaging so much that he can actually control exactly what people think. And that, that is our job.”

No, Mika, actually leaders always  lead, which always means trying to persuade the public.  That is their job. You job is to keep the public informed without telling them what to think, since as this statement proves, you don’t think all that well. At all.

6.  I am surprised that the Washington Post wasn’t shut out as well, especially after a slime job like this story.

7. Would I recommend this action by Trump? No. But it is a defensible response to a real threat to his ability to govern, and an informed democracy. It may not be a responsible or prudent response.

8. The best response would be for journalists to start doing their real job, and report the news fairly and competently without aligning themselves with political agendas.

____________________________

Pointer: Zoltar Speaks!

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Filed under Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Leadership, Professions, Rights, U.S. Society

The Unethical, Depressing, Bar Complaint Against Kellyanne Conway

kellyanneThis post is one I do not want to write, and the fact that I have to write it is profoundly depressing. It requires me to criticize, indeed blow the whistle on,  professional colleagues in the fields of law and ethics, some of whom I know and admired very much, as well as fellow members of the District of Columbia Bar. Some of these colleagues are also members, like I am, in a distinguished association dedicated to the field of legal ethics. A superb book on the topic by one of the professors involved  sits in a prominent place in my office bookshelf.  I can see it right now.

Yesterday evening, I learned that a group of fifteen law professors and lawyers have filed a professional misconduct complaint against White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway, claiming that she violated the Rules of Professional Conduct for attorneys by giving false statements to the media. The fifteen signed the complaint, which was filed with the D.C. Bar’s Office of Disciplinary Counsel. When I read the names, signed on a statement printed upon the official stationery of Abbe Smith, a distinguished full time professor at my alma mater, (and where I worked in the administration for four years), Georgetown University Law Center, my heart sank. While I did not need to read the whole complaint to know it was contrived and intellectually dishonest nonsense, I did, and it fulfilled my worst fears. The anti-President Trump hysteria that has caused so many previously fair and rational citizens on the Left to behave atrociously and to betray their previously held values has officially infected lawyers in the legal ethics field. They are now riding the rails on the 2016 Post Election Ethics Train Wreck.

To be absolutely clear and unambiguous: the complaint is a political attack, and a cheap shot at the President of the United States through his staff. There is no merit to any of its contentions.

The professors claim that they were “compelled” to file the complaint because D.C. Rule of Professional Conduct 8.3 (a) requires that

“A lawyer who knows that another lawyer has committed a violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct that raises a substantial question as to that lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as a lawyer in other respects, shall inform the appropriate professional authority.”

They are either addled by partisan political animus or lying, because there is no way, no way, these fifteen professors could know that, or even validly conclude it, based on what they have written in the complaint. To call their accusations against Conway a stretch is to be too kind. They are forced, exaggerated, trivial and manufactured. From what I have read in past commentary and opinions of several of them regarding other matters of lawyer misconduct, I have serious doubts about whether they believe them. I know that’s a serious charge, but I see no other explanation, other than temporary insanity.

To begin with, Kellyanne Conway is not working in a legal position in Trump’s White House. She is Counselor to the President, not White House Counsel. The President and Conway may choose, for his protection, to treat her non-legal policy advisor position as a legal representation, but the fact remains that she is not providing legal advice and services, only policy-related ones. Now, lawyers can violate D.C. Rule of Professional Conduct 8.4, Misconduct, while not engaged in the practice of law, but unless the conduct involved is criminal or displays “moral turpitude” sufficient to call into question the lawyer’s fitness to practice the likelihood of the conduct being regarded as sanctionable by the Bar is vanishingly slim.

From everything I can determines, Conway, though she is a member of the New Jersey Bar and an inactive (she needs to pay back dues and take my mandatory D.C. Bar ethics course before she can practice) member of the District Bar, has not practiced law in more than 20 years. She has been a pollster, an activist, a flack and TV personality as well as candidate  Trump’s campaign manager, but none of her professional profiles refer to her as a lawyer. The complaint alleges that Conway “engage(d) in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation” in breach of D.C. Rule of Professional Conduct 8.4 (c), and did so while not engaged in the practice of law.  In order to bring down the wrath of the Bar, such conduct must be extremely serious, criminal or bordering on it. Rule 8.3 “limits the reporting obligation to those offenses that a self–regulating profession must vigorously endeavor to prevent.” What kind of non-law-related “offenses” must “a self–regulating profession…vigorously endeavor to prevent”?  It is well established that questionable statements that an individual with a law license utters in the course of political activity and advocacy is not such conduct. Continue reading

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions, This Helps Explain Why Trump Is President, U.S. Society

From The Ethics Alarms “What You Say Or Think In Private Is None Of Your Employer’s Business, Until It Isn’t Private Any More” Files: The Teachers’ Bar Game

teachers-at-a-bar

Akin to the Naked Teacher Principle is what this fiasco illustrates. If you allow conversations to make their way to the web and they insult or denigrate individuals who have to trust you or work with you in your employment, you cannot complain when your name is mud and your job is toast.

Some teachers and and staff employed by the Bangor Public Schools were relaxing at a local bar, and started playing a game  called “Fuck, Marry, or Kill.” The game challenges the players to name three celebrities they would marry, have intimate relations with or kill, but the educators decided to substitute students and other teachers for the celebrities.Some the students named as desired murder victims or sex partners were special needs students. What fun!

No ethics alarms sounded. Someone made a video, nobody grabbed the phone and stomped on , and the video ended up on YouTube.

Parents were not pleased. Continue reading

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Filed under Childhood and children, Education, Etiquette and manners, Professions

Ethics Lesson: Judges Can’t Campaign Like Other Candidates

false-campaign-ad

The Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia suspended Judge Stephen Callaghan for two years and fined him $15,000 for a campaign flyer that it deemed dishonest. The court said that the flier  depicted the incumbent judge, Gary Johnson, as “partying” with President Obama. Johnson had visited the White House for a federally required conference on fighting child trafficking, but  he didn’t see Obama there, there was no party, and no function involving alcohol. The flier was mailed out five days before the May 2016 election, which Callaghan won.  Callaghan won the election by 220 votes.

The flier was “in every sense, materially false” according to the decision. You can see it above. Photos of Obama and Johnson are shown next to each other. Obama is shown holding a beer and streamers are in the background. The caption reads, “Barack Obama & Gary Johnson Party at the White House.” The opposite side of the flier read,

“While Nicholas County lost hundreds of jobs to Barack Obama’s coal policies, Judge Gary Johnson accepted an invitation from Obama to come to the White House to support Obama’s legislative agenda. That same month, news outlets reported a 76% drop in coal mining employment. Can we trust Judge Gary Johnson to defend Nicholas County against job-killer Barack Obama?”

After Johnson objected to the flier ( and probably threatened to sic the Judicial Ethics Panel on him), Callaghan removed the flier from his Facebook pages and ran radio ads saying the flier’s “specific characterization of the White House visit may be inaccurate and misleading,” and “candidate Callaghan apologizes for any misunderstanding or inaccuracies.” Continue reading

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